Convention Center official quits, then assails his boss Kelley claims director prevented him from disciplining supervisors

December 20, 1996|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Convention Center's deputy director has abruptly resigned, claiming that he's been stonewalled in repeated attempts to root out incompetence and improve service at the expanded center.

Jim Kelley, who quit last Friday, said yesterday that he had become increasingly frustrated by what he called Director Peggy Daidakis' mismanagement of the center, particularly her refusal to make mid-level managers more accountable for results.

Kelley, who came to the center as deputy in July 1995, said he had insisted on the dismissals of at least a half dozen of 18 key supervisors for "gross incompetence."

Without naming the supervisors, he said he had reprimanded them in writing for repeatedly failing to ensure basic tasks were completed, such as painting meeting rooms, moving trade shows in and out of the center on time, scrubbing exhibit halls between events, and ensuring clean and well-stocked bathrooms.

When he tried to discipline -- and in some cases remove -- his subordinates, Kelley said, Daidakis would undermine him by overruling him. "I came to help create a world-class facility," said Kelley, 33. "But Peggy was willing to settle for mediocrity. To me, mediocrity is not enough; I don't want any part of that."

Daidakis, who started at the convention center in 1978 and worked her way up to director a decade ago, flatly denied Kelley's claims. She attributed their "mutually agreed upon" need for parting to fundamental differences in management style.

Kelley, who came to the job after stints with the private sector as a marketing executive for GES Exposition Services in Washington and a staffer in convention services at the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor, said he quickly lost patience with employees who routinely failed to carry out orders.

But Daidakis said she preferred finding another place for longtime employees if they encountered difficulties in a position.

"Jim and I didn't see management the same way," she said. "I don't believe in management by intimidation. That's not my style to just ditch an employee. My idea of a leader is not to just order. My idea of a leader is to teach and guide and nurture in a positive way."

Kelley's resignation from the $70,700-a-year deputy job comes at a crucial juncture for the convention center. It's nearing completion of a $151 million expansion tripling its size, and staff is increasing, from from 84 to about 140.

Pub Date: 12/20/96

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