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Mayor Sager blasts ice rink manager

April 02, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Hagerstown Mayor Steven T. Sager on Tuesday blasted the acting director of the city-owned ice rink that is under construction, saying he engaged in poor public relations, resulting in a drop-off in contributions for the project.

Sager also told Walter Dill that his actions resulted in telephone calls from constituents.

Sager referred to two articles published in The Herald-Mail newspapers in which it was reported that the person who gets the job of executive director when the ice rink opens could make $80,000. The newspaper also reported that there was a discrepancy in the educational claims of the rink's acting director.

"I think those two things don't help," Sager told Walter Dill, acting director of the nonprofit Washington County Sports Foundation.

After the articles were published in February, either Dill or the foundation's board of directors should have made a public statement clarifying matters, Sager said.

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"If it is an embarrassment or a contingency to this project, I can resign," Dill said.

"No," Sager responded. He asked that Dill or board members write a letter to the editor explaining the salary and educational discrepancy.

"I think they need to be clear since they're asking individual citizens and businesses for donations," Sager said after the work session.

Sager said he had received calls from constituents concerned about the size of the salary listed for an executive director of the ice rink and about the educational discrepancy.

Dill said, "It is killing our fund raising dramatically ... It screeched us to a halt."

The foundation is about $5,000 short of the $100,000 it was to raise by April 1 in order for city officials to release $280,000 more in funding for the rink project, said Deborah Everhart, the city's economic development coordinator.

The foundation already had raised about $600,000 and is expecting good news about a $375,000 state grant by the end of May, officials said.

In a Jan. 23 interview, Dill said he had a master's degree in computer science. But the registrar's office at the State University of New York at Buffalo said there was no record of a master's degree awarded to a Walter Dill.

Dill told Sager and City Council members on Tuesday that he got the same response when he called the registrar's office after the article was published.

He said he was told that he met the qualifications, but didn't graduate because he took some of the required courses at another school. Dill said he earned some course credits at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

Dill, an assistant vice president at First Data Merchant Services, told city officials that he had decided that "a master's degree is just not that important." He said he would have to think seriously about whether it was worth the time and money to go back to school at the age of 47.

The anticipated $80,000 salary for the ice rink director, which was listed on an application for Washington County Gaming Commission funds, was a high estimate, Dill said. It included an average pay range of $40,000 to $50,000 for an ice rink manager as well as benefits, such as pension and health care.

The salary of the ice rink's director still hasn't been determined, board officials said.

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