Fired pool manager rips city at meeting

Says confrontation with council member cost job
Reporter Editor

The fired long-time Rockdale Municipal Swimming Pool manager, who says she lost her job after a confrontation with a city council member last month, had harsh words for some city officials during Monday’s council session.

Deta Donnelly said she was fired following an incident with councilwoman Toby Johnson at the Veterans Park Pool.

Also on Monday, the council took the first step toward redistricting city wards, after learning they were “out of balance” following the 2010 Census.

CONFRONTATION—Donnelly said she was one of two lifeguards at the June 2 senior class pool party, the day before graduation, when Johnson approached her three times to discuss a parking situation involving “the grass” at Veterans Park.

“What grass?” Donnelly asked. “There isn’t any grass. It hasn’t rained in however long and the grass is dead, dead, dead.”

Donnelly said Johnson then went on to discuss another matter concerning training lifeguards.

“I was one of two lifeguards,” Donnelly said. “I had 60 kids in the pool and 20-25 milling around. I thought it was more important that there were children in the pool than what’s going on outside the fence.”

“Apparently that grass means a lot in Rockdale,” she said. “Evidently I was wrong and I lost my job.”

Donnelly said a double gate in the pool fence “has always been a loading area” but that status has been changed.

She charged that MARC Center clients, some in wheelchairs and walking with braces and crutches, are no longer permitted to use that entrance and must negotiate “the maze” in the front of the building

Donnelly said she “did not know the legality of her (Johnson) coming up and talking to me like that.”

RESPECT—Donnelly charged that when she tried to bring up the confrontation with City Manager Kelvin Knauf she was told she needed to treat Johnson and Knauf with “more respect.”

Donnelly said she was fired by David Akin, public works director.

Neither Johnson, Knauf nor the city council responded to Donnelly’s statements in open session. A 15-minute closed session was held prior to Donnelly’s remarks to discuss the situation revolving around the firing. No action was taken when the council returned to open session.

Mayor Larry Jones then gave Donnelly the option to make her remarks in open session or ask to appear before an executive session at a later date. Donnelly chose to speak.

PETITION—Donnelly also presented the council with a 48-signature petition. She told The Reporter signers “objected to Johnson’s behavior.”

DU TIES—A later item on Monday’s agenda was a brief presentation by Knauf on the “duties, responsibilities and conduct of city council members.”

Knauf made the point that under Rockdale’s council-manager form of city government, the primary responsibility of the council is to make policy, not take part in the day-to-day operation of the city.

AGENDAS—There was another emotional statement during the council session.

Denice Doss, who is retiring as Chamber of Commerce president after an 11-year career, presented her final report and ended it with a tearful personal note, thanking the city for its support during her tenure.

Doss cautioned against “personal agendas” which she said had no part in promoting Rockdale.

REDISTRICTING—Tom Pollan of Bickerstaff, Heath, Delgado & Acosta, presented a report on redistricting after the 2010 Census.

He said since population is “out of balance” in Rockdale’s two wards, new lines for city elections will have to be drawn.

Pollan said currently there are 3,027 residents in the east ward and 2,550 in the west ward when the ideal number in each ward should be 2,789.

The council adopted guidelines for redistricting.

In other business, the council:

• Discussed a new Senate Bill and its implications on voting machines use when some elections dates are moved.

• Denied a request by Ronnie Wiley to adjust his sewer bill.

• Discussed Operation First Impression Task Force recommendations including joining with other Milam municipalities in asking the county to institute a fee-based solid waste collection system for rural residents.

• Gave first-reading ordinance approval to lowering hotel occupancy tax from 7 to 5.5 percent.

• Okayed a letter of intent with other jurisdictions in pursuing a YMCA for Rockdale.

• Created a Joint Airport Hazard Zoning Commission.

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