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Dismissed Aquatics Director at Sea Over Firing

Former District aquatics director Brendan McElroy said Tuesday that his recent firing was "unjust and unfair," so he would like to have his job back.

"I have a vision for the city and I am committed to aquatics," McElroy said in an interview. "I would love to have my job back."

McElroy said he was called into the Human Resources department Aug. 19 and told he was an at-will employee who was being replaced. No explanation for his dismissal was given, but he said he suspects that it stemmed from the strained relationship he had with Ximena Hartsock, the interim director of the city's Department of Parks and Recreation. The aquatics director is in charge of city pools.

"I think it has been a solid 10 months of service," said McElroy, who was hired by then-Parks Director Clark E. Ray in October. "I think I have a long list of accomplishments in 10 months. It seems the director and I could just not see eye to eye."

But McElroy said he remains unable to figure out the exact source of his tension with Hartsock.

"She never has given me a task that has not been completed, verbally or written," McElroy said. McElroy said Hartsock started marginalizing him shortly after she took over from Ray, who Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) fired in May.

"I don't know what's in her mind," McElroy said. "But I know when she came in, she brought 10 people into the transition team, and the entire summer I was, in essence, reporting to a 23-year-old who had no experience in aquatics but had the ear of the director."

City officials have declined to comment on McElroy's dismissal, calling it a personnel matter. But McElroy maintains that he was a valuable asset to the parks department.

After he took the job in October, McElroy said he focused on making sure the agency had certified lifeguards. In previous summers, he said, more than half of the aquatics staff was not properly certified.

"I basically suspended half the group and made them get their certification," he said.

Earlier this year, McElroy said he worked feverishly to open all 19 city pools, nearly double the number that had been opened in previous years. He said he thinks he and Hartsock "had different methods" for how "they got the pools opened." But he was unable to elaborate.

"It was just a hectic process," McElroy said. "We had never done that before."

McElroy said he also worked to improve the city's annual Black History swim meet, succeeding this year in doubling the number of attendees. McElroy noted that the D.C. Council honored him in July after he led 65 District swimmers to a first place showing at the National Black Heritage Championship Swim Meet in North Carolina.

"It's a little bit of a scratch-your-head," McElroy said. "A month ago, I was in front of the council being honored, but now I am fired."

-- Tim Craig

By Washington Post Editors  |  August 25, 2009; 5:13 PM ET
Categories:  City Hall Aides , City Life , D.C. Council , D.C. Employees , Mayor Fenty , Tim Craig  
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Comments

Ray Clarke got fired after putting in a 75K heater at the mayor's favorite pool. Now he's running for office. Re-group McElroy! Dust yourself off and re-invent yourself. You might find out you're better off being out of this administration and other opportunities better than that one will come your way. I love that statement, "I don't know what's in her mind."

Posted by: candycane1 | August 25, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

more of the same from the Fenty Administration. A fool in charge and a good employee fired. Good job Adrian Foolty

Posted by: jr4408 | August 25, 2009 9:47 PM | Report abuse

Look up the definition of at-will employee, McElroy! As an at-will employee you get paid more than employees not at-will in DC government and there's a reason! I hate the whining that comes when an at-will employee is dismissed. If you're going to accept a position like that you have to be prepared that you may be let go for no reason.

Posted by: MJ1980 | August 26, 2009 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Tim craig, why do you think this guy wants the attention? obviously this guy is not very smart if he doesn't care that everyone knows he got fired. Amazing, only in Washington!

Posted by: onemoredeadbrain | August 26, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Why is this still news? Being a good swim coach doesn't make McElroy an effective or responsible Aquatics Director.

As a DPR employee I can say first hand that the pools opened on time in spite for Brendan, not because of him. After he dropped the ball getting pools cleaned and scheduling inspections, we had to spend a week cleaning until 11pm at night just to make sure all the pools would open. Director Hartsock was out with me scrubbing bathrooms at my pool while McElroy was nowhere to be found. When some of the staff asked him why he wasn't helping he held out his manicured hands and said "look at these fingernails, they never get dirty"! Then the first weekend pools are open he took leave! What kind of manager won't get his hands dirty working and goes on leave on the busiest day of the year for the aquatics division?

If Brendan is good at coaching he should stick to doing just that. Managing is clearly not his strength.

Posted by: greypl | August 26, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Why is this still news? Being a good swim coach doesn't make McElroy an effective or responsible Aquatics Director.

As a DPR employee I can say first hand that the pools opened on time in spite for Brendan, not because of him. After he dropped the ball getting pools cleaned and scheduling inspections, we had to spend a week cleaning until 11pm at night just to make sure all the pools would open. Director Hartsock was out with me scrubbing bathrooms at my pool while McElroy was nowhere to be found. When some of the staff asked him why he wasn't helping he held out his manicured hands and said "look at these fingernails, they never get dirty"! Then the first weekend pools are open he took leave! What kind of manager won't get his hands dirty working and goes on leave on the busiest day of the year for the aquatics division?

If Brendan is good at coaching he should stick to doing just that. Managing is clearly not his strength.

Posted by: greypl | August 26, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Brendan McElroy is an idiot.

Posted by: itk08 | August 26, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Ok, this is ridiculous. I work for DPR (as an At-will Employee mind you) and saw first-hand that Brendan McElroy did NOTHING to ensure pools were open on time.

I too was one of the many folks who pitched in to help Director Hartsock when Brendan dropped the ball. A team of folks along with the Director who aren't "aquatics" employees spent several 14-hour (or more) days in a row scrubbing bathrooms, cleaning glass and debris from around pool decks, and ensuring all locations had hand soap, paper towels, first aid kits, sign-in books, etc. Had it not been for this effort and the hard work of the facilities and aquatics team (minus Brendan) to ensure all facilities had working showers and toilets, hot water, and proper chemical levels, these pools would not have been safe and ready to open for the summer.

It was as if Brendan had not even looked at any of these pools prior to the week they were set to open. Meanwhile, he lied and said all pools were ready for inspection and he was confident they'd be open on time. He later admitted that he didn't think the inspectors would take the process as "serious" as they did and he was hoping they would be lenient as they have been in previous years.

He was absent for much of the days leading up to the opening of pools because of the swim meet he was honored for.

Brendan may be a great swim coach, but he is wholly unfit to manage the aquatic facilities in this city. I am glad to see him go.

He is a liar, he is lazy, and after reading this pathetic article I have lost what little respect I had for him. I hope this one goes to court and I pray they ask the folks who busted their behinds making up for his shortcomings to testify.

Posted by: At-willEmployee | August 26, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Hartsock et al,

Instead of wasting tax payers dollars by replying to this post, why not get back to work? Your young assistant that he mentions is making what 70k right out of college? Most of your staff is probably at-will employees. Except for your old black receptionist.

Fenty should be run out of town for appointing you.

Posted by: wls88 | August 26, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Brendan please stop whining. You should be embarrassed to be letting so many folks that you were fired.

Posted by: jongoulart | August 26, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

It's about time!
It should have not taken Hartsock and HR so long to get rid of someone who was appointed by his fraternity buddy...as a promise from the Mayor, their fraternity buddy...who by the way was an "at-will" employee...was let go too!!! I cannot understand how someone who is a swim coach for the Baltimore City Swim Club is qualified to be an Aquatics Director in DC...never should have happened! McElroy had no clue...improved the Black History Swim Meet...how? No endorsements, no souvenir t-shirts, no commemorative programs...because you bought in an Olympic Swimmer to the meet..woo hoo! McElroy just was lost; not management material at all. Given your job back...HAHAHAHA...for what?...so that you can keep your salary? Go back to corporate enterprise and be non-efficient there.

As for Stephanie Pitt, age 23, mentioned in this article, should not be running Aquatics either...but that's politics for you! She is as just as ineffective as he was. No clue in self, no management experience, no aquatics background; guess that makes her an excellent candidate for the position. Good luck to PhD in Education Ximena Hartsock and her merry band of non-effective, inept "transition" team. If you ask me, they are making DC Parks and Recreation worse than it already is!

What a waste of printed space to moan and complain about something YOU created McElroy; what happened to you is called KARMA and believe that what goes around comes around!

Posted by: reddog19 | August 26, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

The main responsibility of the Aquatics Director is to make sure that the city pools are running smoothly. Don't think McElroy bungled that up. As for the Black History swim meet, there was tons and tons of infighting. Enough blame to go around the world twice. A nice sized crowd.

As for Ximena & them, they're just straight up fools. If Ximmy had done a better job of planning & delegating she wouldn't have had to take off her high heels and scrub toilets. Can't believe they hired someone with zero experience to run DPR. Run it into the ground.

Posted by: Tarheelmeanie | August 26, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Oh wow... first, he coaches private MD/VA swim teams using city resources and then, he fails to complete the most important responsibility charged to him as Aquatics Director without swarms of people stepping in.

Sounds like a winner to me. Let's give him a promotion!

Get outta here...

Posted by: GetOuttaHere | August 27, 2009 12:29 AM | Report abuse

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