By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
In it, Zaffina announced that the SCDA, which had incorporated in 1966, was suspended by the state Franchise Tax Board in 1977 and now, after all these years, was finally being brought back to life by him, Dino M. Zaffina, as its new president and CEO.
"[T]he 'illegal' SCDA will no longer be operating anywhere in the United States of America," Zaffina's email read. "And, the men who claim to be board members of SCDA are devoid of any power. ... "
When Irete finished reading the message, he looked up from his phone and thought, "Holy shit, Dino has risen again."
That night at the Robin Hood, Irete, Harvey Fischer, Milan Sabata and Curtis Pierpoint, a residential construction worker, all talked briefly about Zaffina's latest news. They, along with other players, decided there was nothing they could do about it right away, so they carried on with the planned administrative matters and league elections. Irete was named president; Pierpoint won the vice president slot.
"Because of the way [Zaffina] had acted in the past," Fischer says, "I kinda took it lightly."
But to Zaffina, it had long been a serious matter.
About a year earlier, after Fischer had refunded Zaffina's league fees (Zaffina says he cleverly never cashed the check and was not kicked out of the league but rather allowed his league membership to expire at the end of the year), Zaffina asked California's secretary of state for a copy of the SCDA incorporated bylaws. He quickly discovered the SCDA's corporate status had been suspended in 1977 and that it had never been legally revived.
It's impossible to know exactly what thoughts spun through Zaffina's mind the moment he uncovered this bit of news, but on Aug. 24, 2010, he sent a four-page letter, heavily accented with bold type and underlinings, to the unincorporated league, its members and its sponsors. To Zaffina, the letter was to serve as a heads-up. It spelled out that the SCDA had been claiming to operate with the powers and rights of a corporation without actually having legal corporate status, and therefore was operating illegally and in violation of the California Revenue and Tax Code.
Again, the unincorporated SCDA members largely ignored the message.
"In our minds," Pierpoint says, "it was just another in a long line of threats. We had been unincorporated for more than 30 years and were going along just fine as a club, and so when his letter came along, we didn't think much about it."
On Jan. 3, 2011, Zaffina made his next move. He legally incorporated Southern California Darts Association and then filed four subsidiaries — SCDA, So Cal Darts Association, So Cal Darts and SCDA Products. Zaffina would wait eight months, say many of the darts players, before telling them. However, one of the oldest and most prestigious names in the world of darts now belonged to him.
According to author and darts historian Dan William Peek, the SCDA was started by British and Irish expatriates living in the L.A. area in the late 1950s. The group incorporated in 1966 and, according to Pierpoint, swelled to nearly 5,000 members during the 1980s. The association sold merchandise, hosted two international tournaments and raked in nearly $100,000 a year.
Recent times have not been so kind. Thanks to tougher DUI laws and a ban on smoking inside bars, Pierpoint says, the unincorporated league has dwindled to roughly 100 members and brought in between $2,000 and $3,000 a year, all of which went toward paying for equipment storage and trophies at the end of each season.
None of the darts players can recall why the SCDA decided in 1977 not to renew its corporate status. Pierpoint remembers that the issue came up a couple of times during the 1990s but was always voted down.
"We didn't see any real need in it," he says. "Yes, we probably should have filed taxes, but because we're mostly blue-collar knuckleheads who just want to drink beer and throw darts and have fun, we operate more like an informal club. It was ignorant bliss until Dino came along."
After informing the players that he'd incorporated SCDA, Zaffina issued several press releases and a cease-and-desist letter urging them to stop playing matches using the SCDA name.
Finally, on Sept. 26, Zaffina filed a lawsuit against more than 60 named defendants, including Irete, Fischer and Pierpoint. Milan Sabata, who through sheer fear had helped get Zaffina's name removed from the SCDA website the year before, was conspicuously absent from the lawsuit.
Essentially, Zaffina claimed that the unincorporated league members were injuring his actual SCDA company by continuing to operate. He said he was trying to run his league as a for-profit enterprise but could not so long as the unincorporated members were using and trampling on the SCDA's good name.
The following day, Sept. 27, Zaffina fired off another press release, this one informing the defendants that they were on the hook for a $395 court filing fee and telling them how to avoid litigation and further damages.
Over the next several weeks, Zaffina bombarded the darts players with nine press releases (none of which was sent to the media). They included court deadlines, examples of burdensome discovery requests and dollar amounts for how much each defendant would be responsible for paying in order to battle him in court.