Report: Conway Parks & Rec director canned for making ‘questionable’ purchases on city dime

Report: Conway Parks & Rec director canned for making ‘questionable’ purchases on city dime
The City of Conway fired Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Addison Jarrell this month after he maxed out a city credit card and made many purchases of “questionable need,” according to public records.

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - One City of Conway official is out of a job after a report shows he made questionable decisions with tax payer dollars.

The report comes Saturday, and includes excerpts from Addison Jarrell’s performance evaluation from the City of Conway.

A portion of that review says “Many facilities, including the primary rec center....deteriorated under his watch."

---- this story courtesy of our news partners at MyHorryNews.com ----

The City of Conway fired Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Addison Jarrell this month after he maxed out a city credit card and made many purchases of “questionable need,” according to public records.

Jarrell was terminated from his position on May 7. On Friday afternoon, the city released his personnel file in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from myhorrynews.com.

Jarrell could not be reached for comment.

The 64 pages provided by the city show Jarrell faced criticism throughout much of his year leading the PRT department. City officials said Jarrell failed to supervise his staff, did not maintain the Conway Recreation Center well and struggled to stay within his budget.

The final issue arose on April 30 when city officials learned the PRT credit card had been maxed out, according to Jarrell’s termination form. That prompted the city’s finance department to review the charges.

“There continues to be a large number of purchases made with questionable or no need,” the city’s disciplinary form states. “Such actions cannot be tolerated.”

The document doesn’t say what Jarrell bought with the city’s credit card. Myhorrynews.com has submitted a second FOIA request for those records.

Jarrell became PRT director in April 2018 at a salary of $71,815. A few months later, he received a 2.1 percent cost-of-living raise that was approved by Conway City Council for all city employees.

But just six months into his tenure, he was placed on probation after city officials raised concerns about his performance and judgment, according to disciplinary forms.

On Oct. 2, 2018, Jarrell received a formal notice outlining those problems. A disciplinary form described Jarrell as being “on the bubble” and stated that he would be placed on probation for six months.

“This extension is intended to bring to your attention the seriousness of your substandard performance on the day-to-day operations of the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department,” the form, which was signed by City Administrator Adam Emrick, stated.

During Hurricane Florence last year, Jarrell’s job was to feed emergency workers including the National Guard troops and state Highway Patrol, according to city records.

Jarrell struggled with this task at first, but after a few days the operation was running smoothly, according to city reports.

Jarrell’s disciplinary records show his handling of the disaster led to the city continuing his employment for another six months.

However, Jarrell received a list of areas that needed improvement, including supervising younger staffers, properly maintaining the recreation center and adhering to his budget limits.

“Many facilities, including the primary rec center, have deteriorated under his watch,” his evaluation stated.

Jarrell’s review also said his priorities were misplaced, and a concerted effort needed to be made to improve existing programs before venturing into new territories such as CrossFit training, Strong Man challenges or selling dietary supplements.

City officials also worried about Jarrell’s out-of-town trips. Evaluation comments in the former PRT leader's file indicate he took extended city business trips beyond necessary timeframes, which “raised red flags.”

On April 3, Jarrell was written up again.

At that point, the Parks, Recreation and Tourism department was restructured and Jarrell’s title was changed to recreation director, removing the parks and tourism aspects of the job. His focus was supposed to be running the recreation center, festivals, events, summer camps and managing the Smith Jones Park pool.

Both employees and customers had complained about Jarrell, according to city records. Conway officials were also upset about requests for additional workers.

“This department has the most employees of any other Department in the city, yet there is a constant request for more employees,” a disciplinary form states. “An evaluation of function, scheduling and efficiency shall be undertaken immediately.”

Records show Jarrell’s relationships with department staff had also been flagged.

Some staff members said they felt no one was in charge of the department, and pertinent information was not communicated in a timely manner.

Working late with staff also gave an appearance of impropriety, according to city records.

In one case, Jarrell showed a bond with a new assistant and brought that person to many meetings and programs unnecessarily, according to city records.

“This closeness has reflected poorly upon Addison,” one report states.

“There has to be a divide between personal relationships and professional responsibilities,” a disciplinary form stated. “Addison cannot show favoritism among his employees.”

Before he came to the city as PRT director, Jarrell held the same position at the City of Hardeeville for eight years. He worked as a park ranger at Myrtle Beach State Park before that. Jarrell has a bachelor’s degree in recreation and sport management from Coastal Carolina University and a master’s degree in park, recreation and tourism management from Clemson University.

City officials had little to say about Jarrell’s departure beyond the information contained in his file.

“It is standard practice for the City of Conway not to comment on employment matters regarding personnel,” Emrick said last week. “However, Addison Jarrell made a significant contribution to the City’s Recreation Department in the short time he was with the City. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

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