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Four quit ice rink board

August 29, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Four board members of the new $2.3 million Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex resigned Monday, following an effort last week to dismiss the ice rink's embattled executive director, Walter Dill.

The city issued $1.2 million in bonds to help build the rink at the Hagerstown Fairgrounds. The rink opened Aug. 15.

"We had a disagreement last Friday night - not a disagreement, we had a split about whether to retain Walter as the CEO," said Matt McIntosh, who resigned as board chairman on Monday.

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"Walt was the man to get the ice rink built... But I'm the man to maintain he's not the man to manage the building," McIntosh said Thursday.

"Walter is the type of individual who believes he's not accountable to this board," McIntosh said. Dill would not listen to advice from board members with more experience in sports management, he said.

"We want the rink to succeed, but Walt has got to understand you have to listen to the public," he said.

Dill defended his ability to run the rink.

"They're saying I don't have people skills. It's not true," Dill said.

"This place was built not for special interest groups, but for the people of Hagerstown," he said. Dill would not elaborate on that statement or comment further.

McIntosh said he did not vote in favor of installing Dill as executive director last spring.

"I was afraid of a mom-and-pop operation and that's what happened," said McIntosh.

No vote on Dill's fate was taken during last Friday's meeting by the ice rink's 10-member board.

Also resigning Monday were Treasurer Dave Barnhart, a vice president at Hagerstown Trust; LeRoy E. Myers Jr., the general contractor who oversaw the rink's construction, and Stacey McLeran.

McLeran said she resigned for personal reasons. She would not comment on Dill's performance as executive director.

Myers could not be reached for comment.

Board Vice Chairman Michael Clifford said Myers resigned to spend more time with his family and business, Myers Building Systems Inc.

On Thursday, the remaining board members met to discuss forming committees, including one that will help Dill with operations, said City Finance Director Al Martin.

Barnhart said he resigned because he had philosophical differences with the management of the rink.

He said Dill had to take more responsibility in establishing community contacts and gathering volunteers.

Barnhart's wife, Jo Ellen, also resigned Monday as head of the rink's marketing effort.

She said she heard concerns from the public about a staff shortage at the rink and confusion over the program schedule.

Barnhart said she often didn't know the rink's hours of operation from day to day and there was no rationale for the hours.

"It just didn't make any sense to me... It was very frustrating," Barnhart said.

Jo Ellen Barnhart wasn't the only employee to leave this month.

Paul M. Primeaux Jr., who was in charge of the pro shop, also left.

While Primeaux credits Dill with helping to get the rink built in a short time, he said he disagreed with the way Dill treated companies and people.

"It sickens me to watch him downgrade and insult people's intelligence with his `my way or no way' attitude. I do believe he can get a rink built, but I do not believe he can run a rink after the completion of the building with the type of attitude he exudes," Primeaux said in a letter given to board member's before last Friday's board meeting.

Primeaux was replaced in the pro shop by a 19-year-old, McIntosh said.

Dill came under fire from some public officials, including former Mayor Steven T. Sager, last winter after it was disclosed that Dill's resume was inaccurate.

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 has his supporters on the board, including Clifford, the vice chairman.

"There was a philosophical difference in management style," said Clifford, who works with Dill at First Data Merchant Services.

McIntosh, Barnhart and McLeran "believed that the executive director was more of a behind-the-desk office function, while the rest of the board felt it was a hands-on style. Walt's very hands-on," Clifford said.

"Walt does have the full backing of the Washington County Sports Foundation and the City of Hagerstown," Clifford said. The foundation is the nonprofit group operating the rink.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said city officials are not involved with the foundation's personnel decisions.

"Our relationship is with the board. Walt certainly did a good job in getting the ice rink open. The ice rink has only been open two weeks so it's hard to judge his performance. Our job will be to see how the board is operating the facility," Zimmerman said.

"I think what we're seeing are some growing pains in an organization that rushed" to get the rink up and operating, Zimmerman said.

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