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Oak Harbor pool director has six months to sink or swim
Bill Walker has six months to change some minds.
That’s the deadline set by the North Whidbey Park and Recreation board of commissioners for deciding whether to terminate his contract as director of the publicly-funded district that operates John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool.
Two commissioners wanted to end Walker’s employment, effective Sept. 31. Commissioner Allan McDougall made the motion to terminate the contract and it was seconded by Kirk Huffer.
McDougall brought forward the motion during a special meeting Aug. 7, during which the commissioners evaluated his performance.
The motion to fire Walker was delayed until early 2014.
Walker has worked as executive director for the district since mid-2012. Some people participating in the district’s programs have been critical of many of his decisions; the most noteworthy being terminating the employment of swim coach Neil Romney and administrative assistant Vikki Robinson in fall 2012.
He discovered the North Whidbey Aquajets had a checking account that didn’t go through the district’s usual accounting processes and he reported that to the state auditor’s office.
During Tuesday’s meeting, McDougall said he believes Walker fails to understand the political aspect of his job running the district and added he doesn’t think that will change.
“You don’t get the public dimension of this agency,” McDougall told Walker. “You’re more suited to the private sector.”
McDougall highlighted a proposal Walker submitted to increase fees for users because surrounding districts have higher fees, to which McDougall responded, “so what?”
Walker was quick to point out the park district hasn’t raised fees in seven years while coaching costs increased.
Huffer said he has a trust issue with Walker, he said he doesn’t want to be in a situation where the commissioners would look back in five years and say Walker wasn’t the right fit.
“It’s going to be a while before I get to trust you,” Huffer said.
Walker said the trust issue is mutual.
Huffer was part of a group that, months ago, attended a commissioner meeting and leveled a litany of charges against Walker. That meeting took place before Huffer was appointed to the board.
Commissioner Steve Hoffmire defended Walker.
“I think the very worst thing you could do for the district is to fire this man,” Hoffmire said.
He said that the number of Walker’s supporters is growing and he can see improvement in his performance.
Commissioner Sean Merrill said that Walker was criticized for making rash decisions, but terminating Walker’s contract would be similar.
“That’s just as rash as some of the decisions you’ve been blamed for making,” Merrill said.
He said the board changed in the past year and Walker needs to be flexible.
During the past year, Scott Vogt, Harvey Prosser and Dennis Jepsen resigned from the board and were replaced by McDougall, Hoffmire and Huffer. Commissioner Lori Clark was absent from the special meeting; she decided against running for another term. David Walton filed to fill her seat. He is running unopposed in November.
Huffer eventually retreated from seconding the motion to terminate the contract. Rather, he made an amendment to table the motion until the February 2014 board meeting.
That motion passed 3-1 with Merrill, McDougall and Huffer in favor and Hoffmire opposed.
After the meeting, Walker declined to comment on the results of the meeting.
“I’m just going to do my job,” he said.
The commissioners for the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District will hold their regular monthly meeting 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 15 at the pool.