Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel – October 26, 2000
By John W. Allman
DAVIE — One by one the questions came, followed by accusations and then observations of disbelief.
Each parent, coach and resident gave the same bottom line — there is a problem in Davie, but the wrong people are being held to blame.
For more than two hours Wednesday night, the public spoke out about the recent disciplinary action taken against two parks and recreation employees by acting Town Administrator Tom Willi.
The crowd was angry that sports coordinator Mark Dornacker was fired and temporary parks employee Rocky Johnson was not.
The meeting, requested by a resident and set up by Vice Mayor Richard Weiner, was the first opportunity for citizen comment. About 60 people attended.
The bulk of criticism was levied at Willi and Mayor Harry Venis, who is a friend and business partner of Johnson. Neither Willi nor Venis was at the meeting.
Both men were accused Wednesday night by residents of allowing Johnson to remain employed after allegations surfaced that he might be acting inappropriately at the Pine Island Community Center. An internal investigation cited allegations from 13 people against Johnson, 56, ranging from his having sexual relations at the community center on town time to his twice groping a female parks employee.
One of the most disturbing allegations involved a statement that Johnson asked a 12-year-old girl to play strip poker.
Johnson was not suspended with pay by Willi until Sept. 21, almost a month after rumors of improper conduct were first mentioned. His contract with the town has since expired, and he is no longer employed by the town.
Dornacker, one of the 13 people interviewed, was fired Oct. 12 by Willi. “I think Mr. Willi has to be held accountable, and I want to know why he hasn’t been fired,” resident Lisa Edmondson said. “Mr. Willi doesn’t have the education or the experience to make those decisions on his own.”
Davie police are investigating the allegations against Johnson. Their report, when finished, will be turned over to the State Attorney’s Office. Johnson, through his attorney, has denied the allegations.
Dornacker has a hearing scheduled for Nov. 6 to dispute his dismissal. Dornacker, who coordinated five sports programs involving more than 2,000 athletes, was fired, in part, because he allegedly made a racist statement in August about Johnson and Venis. Willi has said the town has a “zero-tolerance policy” regarding racist remarks or actions.
Johnson, who is opening a professional wrestling school with Venis, was hired by the town in June. Venis has admitted driving Johnson to his job interview and sitting in on the interview.
Doug Notman, whose children took part in activities at Pine Island while Johnson was employed, took issue with the mayor’s influence. He said Venis’ personal business relationship “has placed the children of Davie at risk.”
Notman requested Wednesday’s meeting, and he is giving the Town Council until its Nov. 1 meeting to address more than 20 written questions about the handling of Johnson and Dornacker.
“Our presumption is when we send our kids to town of Davie parks and summer programs, they will come back innocent,” Notman said.
Notman fired questions at Weiner and several town employees present at the meeting. Many of the questions went unanswered because of the police investigation.
Weiner said he would have responded differently to the allegations than Willi did. Weiner said he would have suspended Johnson immediately, conducted an investigation and apologized later if the allegations proved untrue.
One resident defended Venis and the town’s action Wednesday night. Dean Alexander said the community stood to gain by Johnson’s employment. Johnson is a former professional wrestling champion and his son, Dwayne, is “The Rock,” one of today’s most popular professional wrestlers.