Recreation council dissolved after 6 quit County promises to continue programs now in session

February 05, 1997|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The county Department of Recreation and Parks has dissolved the Mount Airy Recreation Council after six of its seven members resigned, leaving the town as the only Carroll community without a recreation council.

The Recreation Department, which dissolved the council Monday after the mass resignations, pledged to continue programs in session. The Mount Airy Youth Athletic Association will take over council-sponsored spring sports, including soccer, T-ball and softball.

Mount Airy is the second recreation council to be dissolved by the county after mass resignations in the past several years. The Sandymount Recreation Council was reorganized with new members after a similar occurrence.

Mount Airy's council members provided no reasons for their resignations in a brief letter to the Department of Recreation and Parks. The resignations, however, follow nine months of dissension that began with the council's dismissal of volunteer soccer coach Betty Jenkins in April 1996.

Dennis Ahalt, the county's community recreation coordinator for Mount Airy, said the resignations were "caused by the feelings of the council that any and every meeting of the council was going to be nonproductive."

As many as 125 of Jenkins' supporters packed recent recreation council meetings to press for her reinstatement. Supporters challenged council rules that limited voting privileges to residents who had attended five monthly meetings in the previous fiscal year. They demanded that the council comply with county rules for an annual financial audit.

Only one recreation council member, who declined to allow her name to be used, returned a telephone call yesterday. She agreed with Ahalt that the meetings had become unproductive.

Others council members could not be reached for comment.

The resignations left about 30 angry and frustrated residents at a recreation council meeting Monday night.

"If they [council members] were interested in this community, they could have come and given new people voting rights, then resigned and said, 'It's yours,' " said Jeanne Lynch, a resident who has been attending council meetings since Jenkins' dismissal.

Jeff Degitz, bureau chief of the county's Recreation Department, refused residents' requests to form a new recreation council at the meeting Monday. He said county officials will decide whether to form a new council, turn programs over to the athletic association or see if a community group organizes.

"Obviously, there are a lot of strong emotional feelings right now, and I think we need time for some of that to settle down," Degitz said.

Jenkins, a mother of five whose grandchildren are involved in recreational programs, expressed concern that girls' sports would suffer under the auspices of the athletic association, which offers football and baseball for boys, cheerleading and pompons for girls.

The council dismissed Jenkins, citing insubordination.

When she pressed the council for a reason, Jenkins said, she was told that she had switched players without notifying a coach on the other team and that she had told several Howard County children it was pointless to try out for teams.

Jenkins said the allegations were untrue.

"I feel I was framed and I never had due process," she said. "Where are our personal freedoms if this type of thing can happen to anyone? It's me today. Tomorrow it could be someone else."

Ahalt said restoring Jenkins to the position was "out of the question." He cited insubordination, but declined to elaborate because the issue is moot. Under county policy, a recreation council, comprised primarily of parents of recreation participants, can dismiss a volunteer at will.

Jenkins unsuccessfully appealed the council's decision to Carroll County Circuit Court. The court ruled in December that volunteer service is a gift, which the recreation council could not be forced to accept.

The Mount Airy Recreation Council, which provides sports and nonsports programs, such as cake decorating and photography, has operated for 23 years without problems, Ahalt said. Nearly 1,200 adults and youth participated in council-sponsored competitive sports programs, including basketball, wrestling and volleyball, last fiscal year, he said. The town has a population of 3,700.

Pub Date: 2/05/97

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