DeKalb parks director fired over swim league snafu

DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis on Monday fired the county’s parks and recreations director, who later said she would fight the dismissal.

The move came after a weekend of outcry from parents of youth in the DeKalb Swim League, who learned last week they were never entered in the annual Georgia Recreation and Parks Association competition.

“In an attempt to correct the wrongs that have occurred in this regard, I am addressing the failings on the part of the Parks and Recreations Department officials,” Ellis said in a letter addressed Monday to GRPA board president James Dodson.

“DeKalb’s children should not be punished for these officials’ lack of response.”

Director Marilyn Drew, reached at her home late Monday night, declined to discuss the issues Ellis wrote about. But the eight-year DeKalb employee said she wouldn’t give up her job easily.

“As a merit-protected employee, I will avail myself to the appeal process,” Drew said.

Ellis also placed the acting deputy director of recreation services on paid administrative leave, and said he would immediately search for a new director of parks and recreation.

Because of inaction on the part of the DeKalb park’s department — including missed registration deadlines and an unpaid $200 fine — 67 swimmers wouldn’t be able to participate in the tournament this weekend in Carrollton, GRPA officials said.

Parents rallied together over the weekend to get the GRPA to change its decision.

Tom Brinks said his 12-year-old daughter Jesse waited all year for the competition to begin this Friday in Carrollton, and she was disappointed to learn she wouldn’t go.

But after DeKalb parks officials botched competition eligibility for county swim teams — and reportedly for county-based basketball teams as well — Brinks said he was encouraged by Ellis’ action on Monday.

“As long as the individuals were around, there was no credibility,” Brinks said. “My hope is that the GRPA will hear that they are no longer being ignored.”

David Weeks, who is organizing the competition in Carrollton, said some discussion has begun among GRPA about how this move affects their decision to keep the DeKalb Swim League from the swim meet.

“I do recognize that something is being done to make it right,” Weeks said. “But I’m not sure where that’s going to take it from here.”

An E-mail sent to Brinks from the GRPA said Dodson would be sending a message to parents Tuesday morning.

Ellis said he contacted each member of the GRPA board Monday, asking for leniency.

“The County is willing to accept appropriate sanctions and to address any outstanding informational needs ... to support this request,” he said in the letter.