Following emotional meeting

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Several pool enthusiasts and MAC supporters testified Monday hoping to convince the MAC board to rehire former pool manager Bobby DeRoest, who essentially was forced to resign after he admitted accepting travel reimbursement he did not earn. DeRoest was rehired to a nonmanagement position at the pool, on a probationary status.It appears Bobby DeRoest will remain employed by the Madras Aquatic Center.

Following an emotional meeting Monday night, the MAC Board of Directors unanimously voted to accept the resignation of current aquatics manager DeRoest, but rehire him as the MAC coach.

About three dozen people showed up at the meeting to voice their support for the popular coach that many consider the public face of the aquatic center.

"Have you considered what it's going to do to the community if Bobby leaves?" asked Glennis Fellas. "He's the face of the MAC."

On Aug. 26, the board accepted DeRoest's resignation, which he offered after the board asked him to resign due to "misappropriation of district funds."

by: HOLLY M. GILL - The MAC board, from right to left, Heidi Boyle, Jamie Hurd, Anita Goodman, Sally Bird Gauvin and Martha Bewley, listened to a dozen people testify in support of former pool manager Bobby DeRoest. DeRoest, asked to resign in August as aquatics manager, will be rehired as a coach. His long-term status will likely be up to the next executive director. At the same meeting, the board accepted the resignation of Carolyn Harvey, who had served as operations manager since October 2012. Harvey, who was asked by the board to stay, said that she hadn't received "support or direction" from the board, and couldn't continue in that environment.

Both resignations were effective Sept. 30, but the board extended DeRoest's employment until Nov. 10, to allow him to continue coaching water polo, and to ensure continuity at the pool until a new manager could be hired.

DeRoest explained that he had been reimbursed for mileage last fall, when he had actually driven a school bus. He said that he was aware that he shouldn't have received the money, and has since reimbursed the district.

Acting on advice from legal counsel and the state ethics commission, the board reluctantly decided to let DeRoest go, but continue coaching the Madras Swim Team, through School District 509-J.

"We were heartbroken," said Sally Bird Gauvin, board member.

DeRoest, who was hired by the MAC district in 2007, has served as general manager of the pool and developed the MAC's swimming programs. Earlier this year, he coached the Madras High School boys swim team to the 4A state championship, and was named the small school (1A-4A) coach of the year for the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association.

Michele Gemelas, who has been involved with the pool since its inception, and served 3 1/2 years on the MAC Trust, asked why it took the board a year to discover the misappropriation, and why they didn't immediately garnish his wages.

Board member Martha Bewley said that they didn't learn of the misappropriation until May, after she went to work as the chief financial officer of the school district.

Gemelas said she rejoiced the day that Harvey was hired, but was disappointed that Harvey didn't receive the support she felt she needed.

As far as moving forward with hiring a new manager and filling other positions, she continued, "I don't believe you have the infrastructure ready for new hires."

Regarding DeRoest, Gemelas said that her family has been crushed by the whole ordeal. "This employee probably single-handedly brought millions into this community," Gemelas said.

"Bobby's a huge asset to the community," said Carrie Graeme, who had children on the swim team.

"Are we all perfect here?" she asked. "This event required a reprimand, not termination."

With the May passage of a new MAC district operations levy that will add another 40 cents per $1,000 of assessed value — about $240,000 — to the district's coffers, Graeme asked why the board didn't just deal with the issue internally. "It's really not that big of a thing to me to bring it out in the public and tarnish the MAC over a little sum of money."

Lonnie Henderson, who was co-chairman of the MAC PAC, which supported the passage of the operations levy, stressed the importance of a coach who shares his passion with kids.

"What he's instilled in my son is something he can take with him forever," he said. "Take a hard look at what we believe in and how we can move forward."

Henderson suggested that the success of the Madras Swim Team has helped fund the pool. "Bobby is the face of the Madras Swim Team; if you lose the swim team, you lose the financial stability you had," he added.

Scott Schierling, co-chairman of the MAC PAC, said he was there to support DeRoest and Harvey. "I'm really concerned about the success of our programs; I'm concerned about the direction the board's going."

Brian Gregory, who also has children coached by DeRoest, said that he didn't agree with the board's decision or the legal advice they had received.

"Get more advice," he said. "Don't let him go; you've got to beg him to come back."

DeRoest's ex-wife Natessa spoke through tears about DeRoest's devotion to the youths at the pool. "To consider any other coach would be a mistake," she said. "You won't find (a better) coach for this community."

She suggested that the board reprimand DeRoest, but keep him as a coach. "Having him here is an asset, not a liability," she said. "He brought the team here from nothing to champions. He was the coach of the year. Asking him to resign doesn't fit what he did ... We're all here to help you make decisions to make the pool grow. We want the best for the pool."

After more than a two-hour meeting, the board met in executive session for nearly two more hours, emerging from the meeting at 10:30 p.m.

Bird Gauvin moved to accept DeRoest's resignation as aquatics manager, effective Nov. 10, and retain him as coach, with the terms to be negotiated, including a probationary period.

The board's next meeting will be Monday, Sept. 30, at 6:30 p.m.

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