Resident Says Parks and Rec Staff Tolerates Bullying Behavior

Katie Megel

Katie Megel

By: Katie Megel

Most of us are taught, from a young age, that bullying is mean and unacceptable behavior. We are told, as a society, that bullying is not to be tolerated.  So, why is the Tamarac Recreation Center not only tolerating bullying, but rewarding it?

Let me explain.  Over a year ago, the Recreation Center started an adult coed volleyball program. We were told that it was going to be mixed play of all ages and levels.  I was eager to sign up. I’ve been playing since I was 7 (I’m now 28) and had some top level coaching.  I initially learned the game at the Air Force Academy and have had additional training from top coaches in the Colorado Springs area, who have now moved on to higher level jobs. I’ve done drills with the women’s Olympic team and received playing advice from their former coach, so, I’m not new to the game.  However, I’m short and I’m not an outside hitter or blocker, but I have other very strong skills that are necessary to a well-rounded team.

Dictionary.com defines bully as, ‘a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.'”

The first day I was there, one of the male players started berating my skills and telling me that I needed to go somewhere else.  This was not a Tamarac resident.  He is also short, by volleyball standards, but thinks he is an “expert” player.  He continued to make fun of me, both privately and in front of all the players at every game.  I just tolerated it.  He even approached my mom as she sat watching, and jumped all over her because I wouldn’t listen to him.  “I have a resume,” he snipped. We later found out that his “resume” consisted of coaching JV volleyball at a public school.  Not exactly overwhelming.

As time went on, he and some of the other players decided to take over half of the gym and not allow anyone to play with them that they didn’t deem good enough.  This included all but one woman, who was allowed to play with them because she is in a relationship with one of the players. She is less than 5 ft. tall, several inches shorter than I am.  There were secret meetings to make deals among the men to keep me and other female players, from playing to our level.

I met with Parks and Recreation Superintendent Michelle Zimmer along with Parish Garret and Vince Dixon and was assured that the behavior would be stopped.  It didn’t.

We continued to watch the game deteriorate over eight months as players left because they were tired of being pushed around.  I met again with the staff of the center.  I was again told that they would fix the problem.

Three weeks ago, the players were asked to sign a “Code of Ethics.”  It stated specifically, that there would be no discrimination of players because of age, sex, race or skill level.  If the players didn’t sign it, they would not be allowed to play.  The guys weren’t happy, but they signed it.  By the end of the evening, they were already meeting to figure out how to subvert the contract.  That week, Parks and Recreation Site Supervisor Raphael Acosta attended the game and told the complaining men that they were going to stick by the contract and it wasn’t going to be changed.

Two weeks later, Acosta was back again at the game.  I had heard that the men were forming a petition to only play with players that they wanted with at least one night a week.  Raphael told me that he figured they would.  He looked me straight in the eye and promised me that it wasn’t going to happen.  The offending players staged a walkout over the next couple of play nights.

On Thursday night, just one week from the promise, we were given a new format that one night a week (we only play 3), the men would be allowed to do whatever they pleased. This is in complete disregard of the code of conduct, and any ethical behavior.

I wrote to the staff and received a letter from Michelle Zimmer this morning which, to cut to the chase, told me if I didn’t like it, I could leave.

We have exchanged several emails.  Every time I asked her how this can take place with the code of ethics that they wrote, she’d skirt the issue and just continuing with the usual rhetoric.  I have received support from only one of the staff members out of the half dozen or so that I have contacted.

Is that the way “The City For Your Life” behaves?  It caves in to bullies from neighboring communities and tells its own citizens to take a hike?  The business cards of all these staff members says, “Committed to Excellence…..Always.”

Shame on you Tamarac Recreation Center, for not honoring your stated commitment and having anything resembling a backbone. Shame on you for encouraging these bullies to keep up with their behavior by rewarding them for it.

  • Corinne R Hamre

    Disgraceful!! “City For Your Life” should be ashamed!!

  • Frank J

    I understand Katie. My experience with Parks + Rec was that I was in a conflict with a street gang and not a local Gov. My experience grew to the point of a city worker threating bodily harm to me by lifting weights over me while I was in a inclined position. I know my conflict was caused by Mr. Greg Warner. I expect your problem is also a result of Mr. Warner’s arrogance. He is the person in charge.
    ALL of my appeals for help with this conflict were completely ignored. The Mayor and her staff completely ignored me. I could not understand why the Mayor and her staff were so intimidated by Mr. Warner. Then a staff member told me that it is know that the Mayor and Mr. Warner, as she put it were good friends.
    Years latter I am still hurting from this ugly, gang like experience with the town of Tamarac.

    • Jeanne M.

      Frank – We don’t think the mayor had anything to do with this. We believe that it was a decision between Michelle Zimmer and Greg Warner. I really don’t think that Mr. Acosta would give me his word and then, one week later, go back on it. When we were talking, he didn’t seem like that kind of guy.
      Ms. Zimmer answered a couple of emails with specific questions (but didn’t address the actual questions) and then totally quit responding. She would never answer the question as to how this behavior being allowed was in agreement with their “Code of Conduct.” She tried to convince us that this ludicrous plan was going to work. If she had ever attended any of the games, she would know better. There are so many players that only play now and then. Having to organize who is going to play at what level every time is going to take a big chunk of the time. Of course the bully faction is planning to take over deciding who will be allowed to play where.
      She also said that she had done “numerous surveys.” We were given two, but nothing that specifically asked about the game rules. She also didn’t even begin to do surveys until a lot of players had already been driven away by the boorish behavior of these adult children, I can’t even call them “men.”

  • Frank J

    I do not believe the Mayor has anything to do with the abusive behavior of Mr. Warner. But in her position of authority, doing nothing about it is just as ugly.

  • David

    Have you heard any more explanation from them since she wrote this?

    • Jeanne M.

      Not a word. And I’m sure we won’t.

  • Unhappy Camper

    Why are these bullies from another city even tolerated here? Tell them to go back to their own towns!! Our employees need to look out for us-the residents.

    • Jeanne M.

      We were told that it’s because it’s a public facility and they are part of the public. The “Code of Conduct” that they signed said that if they didn’t comply, they would be asked to leave. That held up for about a week, until the people in charge decided that they didn’t actually care.

  • CharlieM

    This kind of problem has to be addressed and resolved. I am sure that city officials feel that they may have more important things to discuss, like how to hide more tax increases, but our residents must be treated fairly in all aspects, and when one is not it has to become the concern of all.
    If it is a city run program then the city staff must resolve the problem, if they can not then it should be elevated until it is resolved, then those responsible who were not able to do their job should be reprimanded or removed.

    • Katie M.

      Unfortunately the officials that are high up feel like this “issue” is resolved. When I corresponded with one of them, I was basically told that if I didn’t like how they changed the program, I should go somewhere else to play.

      One of the big issues is that the bullies have run off so many people by harassing and demeaning them, that they now outnumber the players that believe in fairness. Now the admins are hiding behind their “player survey” saying that everyone was happy with how the program was being run. However this was a very inaccurate poll because the survey was given after the bulk of the players had been driven away. The player that started this knew that the were going to be doing the survey, so he made sure all of his crew was there to skew the results If they had done the survey 6-8 months ago, they would have had entirely different results. The admins. know that, they just don’t care. They will no longer discuss it.

      They should just change the name of the building to “Ira’s Gym,” because he’s the one running it.

  • Frank J

    Gang tactics will prevail again. Nothing will change. The gang will be back to hurt and abuse another citizen.

  • Frank J

    The problem is GREG WARNER