September 12, 2018 10:42:33 AM
Chris Clardy is out as the Caledonia parks director, a move he said came without warning or explanation.
"I was shocked," Clardy said. "I never saw this coming and I don't know why I was forced out."
The action was taken during Monday's regular meeting of the Caledonia Parks Commission.
Clardy, who had only been director for about six months, said during a break in the commission's executive session, commission attorney Corky Smith told him he would have to resign or be terminated. The commission had gone into executive session to discuss a personnel matter.
"(Smith) said if I resigned, I could hold my head up high," Clardy said. "But why wouldn't I be able to hold my head up high? I didn't know I had done anything wrong. I told him, 'I'll resign if I don't have a choice.'"
Clardy said he then asked Smith to be allowed to come before the commission and hear why he was being forced out of the job.
"I just wanted them to tell me why they were forcing me out," Clardy said. "Apparently the chairman (Jason Counts) wouldn't do that."
Smith confirmed Tuesday he spoke with Clardy while the board was taking a bathroom break during executive session, but he would neither confirm nor deny Clardy's account of the conversation nor elaborate on why the commission took its actions.
"During the break is when I spoke to Mr. Clardy," Smith said. "That's when he informed me that he would be resigning. I don't want to go into too much detail because it moves into a personnel issue. What I can say is that there was a brief discussion and this was the outcome."
Smith said the commission came out of executive session and took two actions -- accepting Clardy's resignation as parks director then eliminating the assistant parks director position and elevating Matt Matthis from that position to interim parks director.
Both positions were part-time jobs. The director's position pays $1,000 per month while the assistant director's job paid $500 per month.
Matthis, who was not at the parks commission meeting, declined to comment.
Counts also declined to comment, referring all questions on the topic to Smith.
The Caledonia Parks Commission was created in November 2017 to manage all parks and recreation in the town, including the use and upkeep of Ola J. Pickett Park. It was created as an autonomous seven-member body with its own budget appointed by the town's board of aldermen.
The commission hired Clardy as its parks director in February and created the assistant parks director a month later, hiring Matthis for that position.
Clardy said he regrets turning in his resignation and said he intends to "keep fighting for our park."
"I didn't get much sleep (Monday night)," he said Tuesday. "I kept going through my mind, trying to think of anything that might have caused this. I haven't had a run-in with a parent or anything with the (commission). Things have been running pretty smooth, I thought.
"As of right now, I still don't know why I was terminated," he added. "I'd like an answer. I'm not going to give up. Accountability is a big thing with me. If there was something I did wrong, I'd own up to it."
Clardy, after Monday night's vote, also lashed out at the parks commission with a lengthy post on Facebook, in which he said he would not be quiet about his forced resignation. He even said aldermen either need to disband the parks commission or the commissioners need to be replaced.
"... These politic craving members need to go and you need real people in those positions that care about the park enough to do more than say I'm a board member and I coach!" the post concluded. "I could coach, run the park programs, and volunteer my time better if they were gone!"
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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