13 WHAM - "A moment in the spotlight for a local veteran is causing concern as new information about that veteran's past comes to light.
Saturday night was Batman night at Frontier Field and along with a special guest, the organization wanted to bring in a Navy Seal to honor by having him throw out the first pitch before the game.
A viewer reached out to 13 WHAM, after realizing the person chosen to throw out that pitch is also a convicted felon and a registered sex offender.
Rochester Red Wings General Manager Dan Mason said Tuesday, the organization counts on agencies they work with to help provide people to honor on the field before games and the recommendation to bring in Thomas Poole, came straight from someone at Veterans Affairs.
Poole spent more than five years in federal prison for possession of child pornogaphy. Court records indicate he also admitted to violating his parole twice, most recently in 2015 and he's a Level 2 Registered Sex Offender.
"We're obviously really disappointed and really surprised," said Mason.
Mason said the VA Center has helped recommend veterans to honor in the past with no issues. He said he was also told Poole was an employee at an Outpatient Center and had no reason to believe there were any issues.
"Obviously we had no knowledge of this person's past and I don't believe anyone that we work with at the VA had knowledge of his past either," said Mason.
The VA confirmed Poole has worked for them since 2013, but did not answer questions about whether or not a background check was given prior to his hire.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Canandaigua VA Medical Center wrote:
Canandaigua VA Medical Center embraces opportunities to honor our veterans. Those who have sacrificed for our nation deserve such recognition. However, we generally do not identify individual veterans to be recognized at public events. It is our practice to provide contacts at veterans service organizations for assistance in locating individual veterans for these kinds of events.
We are reviewing the circumstances of a recent case in which a VA employee identified a fellow VA employee, who is also a veteran, to participate in a pre-game ceremony at a Rochester Red Wings game.
VA employees care deeply for every veteran we are privileged to serve. VA has over 330,000 employees, many of them veterans themselves, who are expected and trained to live by our core values and ensure that veterans receive the services and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.
Despite this incident, Mason said taking time to honor members of the community is a major part of what the Red Wings organization is about. A tradition that he said won't be changing any time soon.
"I think the people that come to our games appreciate that we honor people in our community for doing the right thing and doing some great work and we will continue to do that, but we'll be a little more, a lot more vigilant," said Mason.
13 WHAM did to reach out to Poole directly Tuesday, but was not able to contact him."