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Posted at 05:16 PM ET, 08/26/2009

Diving Deeper Into Aquatics Director's Firing

The District's firing of aquatics director Brendan McElroy took a new twist Wednesday, with news that the D.C. Office of the Inspector General had launched a preliminary investigation of McElroy a month before he was fired, according to sources familiar with the probe

The investigation, outlined in a letter the inspector general sent in late July to Ximena Hartsock, interim director of the city's Department of Parks and Recreation, centered on whether a swim team managed by McElroy "dominated" the pool at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center.

Charles J. Willoughby, the inspector general, said in the letter that his office had received complaints that McElroy's team "significantly reduced the amount of pool time available to other patrons."

Two weeks ago, Hartsock fired McElroy as aquatics director. His removal outraged some parents, and McElroy says he was unjustly terminated. City officials have declined to comment, calling it a personnel issue.

It's unclear whether McElroy was managing a public or private swim team at the Turkey Thicket pool. The inspector general's office is charged with investigating misuse of city resources.

In an interview Wednesday, McElroy said he had been asked "to build a competitive swim program" by Clark E. Ray, the former parks and recreation director, who hired him in October.

McElroy said he managed a combination of District, Maryland and Virginia youths who were part of USA Swimming, a private swim organization.

"My job was to build the swim team, and that is exactly what I was doing," McElroy said. "Everyone in the agency was aware of me coaching at Turkey Thicket, which I did not get paid one penny for, from the very first day I started."

McElroy denies the allegations that his swim team bullied other swimmers at taxpayers' expense.

"We continued to have lanes open to the public," he said. "The swim team never interfered with programming that was already intact at Turkey Thicket. What we did is add to the program."

Austin A. Andersen, a spokesman for the inspector general's office, confirmed that there was an open inquiry but declined further comment.
-- Tim Craig

By Washington Post Editors  |  05:16 PM ET, 08/26/2009

Categories:  Tim Craig, Tim Craig, Tim Craig, Tim Craig

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