Fort Lauderdale Documents: Parks & Rec Department Spin Focused on Pussieldi Resignation, Nelson Retirement, Coordinating the Message – Everything But Kid Abuse

Published March 25th, 2014, Uncategorized

PREVIOUSLY:

Pussieldi had been legal guardian of Mexican swimmer: http://concussioninc.net/?p=8847

Sun-Sentinel swimming writer prevented assault report from getting “out of hand”: http://concussioninc.net/?p=8852

Sun-Sentinel’s Sharon Robb a member of three Florida sports halls of fame: http://concussioninc.net/?p=8857

Miami Herald, national swimming media contributed to USA Swimming’s Alex Pussieldi cover-up: http://concussioninc.net/?p=8861

* Fort Lauderdale police dismissed assault allegation with misleading statement that Pussieldi “is a coach overseas now”: http://concussioninc.net/?p=8867

 

by Irvin Muchnick and Tim Joyce

 

Newly released 2004 documents from the city of Fort Lauderdale, obtained last Friday by Concussion Inc., show both a municipal bureaucracy and a local media less interested in the well being of kids than in protecting the aquatics empire of Hall of Fame swimming coach Jack Nelson. That is evident through emails by everyone from Sharon Robb of the Sun-Sentinel to the police officers assigned to investigate the pool deck altercation between coach Alex Pussieldi and his Mexican former ward and tenant.

We now turn to the internal deliberations of the Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department, which managed the city complex where Nelson’s team practiced. In the wake of the Pussieldi incident, department officials had a three-pronged message:

  • Pussieldi was resigning, so he was no longer their problem;
  • The Fort Lauderdale Swim Team staff were not employees of the city – and anyway, the whole structure of the operation was about to change with Nelson’s retirement; and
  • Let’s all pull together and not rock the boat.

The blueprint of the Parks and Rec strategy is a February 18, 2004, memo from Stu Marvin to Sherrill Nelson. Marvin was the manager of the aquatic complex, who reported to Ernest Burkeen, the Parks and Rec director. (“You’re getting real good at these letters,” Burkeen emailed Marvin after the latter copied him on responses to public complaints.) Sherrill Nelson was Jack Nelson’s wife.

The document is viewable at http://muchnick.net/marvinmemo.pdf. It is a rat-a-tat of crisis-control bullet points that could as easily have been about limiting liability from injuries caused by a sloppily mopped floor. That the problem was a coach with continued intimate access to hundreds of young swimmers, despite allegations that he had secretly videotaped boys he housed and had videotaped himself having sex with minors … well, none of that mattered as much as bullet No. 16: “A house divided cannot stand.”

When he resigned from the team, with the wink-and-nod that would allow him to continue his coaching career at other programs in Fort Lauderdale and Davie, without missing a beat, Pussieldi said, “I am doing this in the best interest of everyone concerned. I am doing this for both coach Nelson and me, and all the people who have been so nice to me. I am going to take a break from coaching.”

Some break. His published bio shows that Pussieldi was “head coach” of boys swimming and diving at St. Thomas Aquinas High School from 2001 to 2005, and “co-head coach” from 2005 to 2007. Repeated queries to the public relations staff of the Archdiocese of Miami have failed to clarify whether Pussieldi took even a one-day break from that job, and even more important, whether anyone in the school or church leadership gave a damn.

But Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation knew their duty. Bullet No. 3 of the Marvin-to-Nelson memo read, “Contact George Smith” before getting in touch with Sharon Robb, the Sun-Sentinel shill. Smith was the athletic director at St. Thomas Aquinas, and as Marvin wrote, “He deserves advanced notice.” A heads-up – but not, evidently, a serious discussion of whether Pussieldi belonged anywhere near kids.

As for the Mexican swimmer who complained that Pussieldi, after training a hidden bathroom video camera on him, slugged and choked him during their pool deck disagreement? And the assistant coach who stood up for the swimmer? See bullet No. 17: They were given “formal written notice … that their actions are not ‘in the best interests of FLST.’”

We’ve tried unsuccessfully to get comment from Smith, Marvin, and Burkeen. Marvin is now the swimming coach at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania. Burkeen is parks and recreation director for the city of Baltimore.

Complete links to Concussion Inc.’s Pussieldi investigation are at http://concussioninc.net/?p=8652.