Keller Youth Association president with ties to adult businesses resigns after outcry

Steve Craft resigned Thursday night as the Keller Youth Association president after weeks of public outcry from parents concerned about his ties to sexually oriented businesses.

Craft, a North Richland Hills resident, could not be reached for comment. But in his letter of resignation to the association's board, he said he resigned to eliminate any negative perceptions about the organization. "I assure you I have no hidden agendas, nor have I tried to hide or make any excuses for my professional career," he wrote.

Todd Nelson, the association's executive board vice president, confirmed Craft's resignation but declined to comment further.

Friday afternoon, the association's executive board issued this statement:

"After 5 years of service to KYA, President Steve Craft has resigned effective immediately. We wish Mr. Craft all the best in his future endeavors and thank him for his past service. Per our by-laws, our Executive Vice President, Todd Nelson, has assumed the role of President."

Craft, who became KYA president in June, is vice president of Burch Management, which has at least five strip clubs in the Metroplex. When he was elected this summer, many parents were apparently unaware of his ties to sexually oriented businesses.

News of his businesses troubled some parents, who said it was inappropriate for him to be involved with the youth recreational sports association, which is affiliated with the city and school district.

Craft has been involved in legal battles for years involving strip clubs. Later this month, trial is scheduled for a lawsuit he filed to try to prevent the city of Arlington from denying a license to Chicas Locas, a strip club that featured all-nude performers.

The city took away the club's sexually oriented business permit last year because of reported criminal activity, including drug use and prostitution. The trial is scheduled for Oct. 11. The club previously lost its liquor license for allowing a minor to work there.

He has also battled with Arlington over the operations of a strip club called T&N and a cabaret called Centerfolds.

In Dallas, he has fought with the city over Cabaret Royale, a club for which he is a director. Legal challenges have also hit the Fare Room, to which Craft has ties, according to public records. He is also listed on state records as president of Baby Dolls Topless Saloons Inc. in Dallas, another club that has been at odds with that city.

Community reaction to news of his resignation was mixed.

Craft's resignation was the right decision for KYA and the community, said Kristi Layton, whose daughter plays softball and basketball with the organization.

"The goal for KYA is to develop good self-esteem for young people through sports ... and I don't believe that a person in a leadership position with KYA whose profession deals with sexually oriented businesses is consistent with that goal," she said.

Another Keller resident, Chris Cole, disagreed, saying a volunteer's job should not come into play within the organization. "As long as it is a legal business, I don't think it should matter," said Cole, who is not involved in KYA and does not have children participating in the organization.

What should matter is how the person contributes as a volunteer, he said. "How they treat the kids, what kind of time and dedication they put into their effort -- from fundraising to coaching -- and overall support of the children should be the highest concern," he said.

KYA parent Mario Giovannitti, whose son has played for Craft's KYA football team in the past, said he was disappointed in the news of his resignation.

"I am sad that the voice of a few judgmental people forced Steve to make this decision," he said via e-mail. "That being said and knowing Steve, it should be obvious that his decision to step down is a prime example of Steve putting the kids and KYA first. He is a good leader and I hope the next president emulates his commitment to KYA and the children of Keller."

Brian Dawson, who coaches a baseball and T-ball team with KYA, said Craft's resignation was a positive for the association.

"He did the right thing; that's nice," he said. "I am really looking at this thing at face value. What he does as a living is his business, but when you are in a public position like that, you have to think about what is best for the overall organization."

Jody Aarhus of Fort Worth, whose son plays baseball at KYA, said she was relieved to hear of the resignation. "I am happy that he considered the value of the community's concerns and our input," she said.

Thousands of area children take part in Keller Youth Association recreational and select sports. It offers baseball, softball, football, basketball and cheerleading, as well as summer camps. Coaches and volunteers undergo criminal background checks.

Staff writer Max Baker contributed to this report, which includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Adrian McCandless, 817-431-2231

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram