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Posted at 05:13 PM ET, 08/25/2009

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  |  05:13 PM ET, 08/25/2009

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