UPDATE: Mayor Berke responds to fired dancing park ranger issue
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
UPDATE: The video of the dancing Chattanooga park ranger has gone viral. Support for the dismissed employee has increased to the point that Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke has posted a response on Change.org.
Change.org is a website where people post petitions to create the change they want to see.
A Chattanooga park ranger says he was fired for dancing on the job. He says it's something he's done for years to bring joy to visitors and was nicknamed by some as "the dancing park ranger." But the city says he displayed "unbecoming conduct "and neglected his duties. Now he's jobless and it's got a lot of people talking.
Deryl Nelson worked as a park ranger for the City of Chattanooga at Coolidge Park on the North Shore for more than seven years. He says he's always loved dancing and about a year into the job, drew an unexpected crowd of cheers for jumping in with a large group of visitors doing the "Macarena." From then on, he kept dancing, but a recent complaint lead to him losing his job.
51-year-old Deryl Nelson says the city took his job, but not his moves.
"It's all about enjoying what you do and that's the way I feel," Deryl Nelson said.
He says he loved being a park ranger at Coolidge Park and getting smiles out of people with impromptu dances.
"Clean fun. It's nothing like doing any bumping and grinding," he said.
But, a recent park patron wasn't pleased and took her complaint online, posting a video of his dancing. That got the city's attention.
"People just have nothing else to dobut bash people," Nelson said, " No twerks, no jerking, no nothing."
The public works department said it was inappropriate and fired him on two code violations "conduct unbecoming of an employee" and "inefficiency or negligence inperformance of duties." Nelson says his phone has been ringing off the hook from supporters as he appeals the termination.
"It makes people happy to see some government official out dancing, enjoying life," park patron Jordan Otis said.
"Sad. I mean somebody's trying to have fun and entertain people and they get fired for doing that. I don't understand," park patron Deeanna Demian said.
Nelson's personnel records show he's never been flagged for dancing before. He was written up in 2010 for hitting a car and disciplined for the same "unbecoming conduct" violation once before in 2013 for making an "unwelcome comment" about a co-worker. He points out he also received an heroic acts award last year for helping save a woman's life who fell into the river.
"Just let me be myself. Let me be the park ranger. I was labeled 'the dancing park ranger' so let me be the dancing park ranger," he said.
City officials say they do not comment on personnel matters. The video of him dancing that got their attention online, can not be located and the city says they don't have a copy of it.