Hilliard Mayor Don Schonhardt announced today, March 8, he has dismissed Hilliard Recreation and Parks director Steve Mazer.

Schonhardt has appointed recreation program manager Beth Simon as the department’s interim director, according to a statement issued this morning by Schonhardt.

In the statement, Schonhardt said Mazer’s employment as director of the city’s recreation and parks director has been “terminated” with the city “effective immediately.”

The city will begin the process of searching for a replacement, according to the statement.

Mazer was appointed the city’s director of recreation and parks March 3, 2008.

Simon has been with the city’s recreation and parks department for 22 years.

Schonhardt’s statement gave no reason for Mazer’s termination and did not say if it had anything to do with a former parks official who was indicted for theft.

Doug Francis, director of communications and internet technology for Hilliard, said Mazer was called to a 9 a.m. meeting with Julia Baxter, the city’s human-resources director.

Baxter and Mazer had a conference call with Schonhardt, who is out of state, and Mazer was informed he was dismissed, Francis said.

“The mayor felt for the betterment of the recreation and parks department that new leadership was in order, that a new direction was in order,” Francis said.

Schonhardt did not immediately respond to calls.

As for the theft issue, attorneys representing former Hilliard Recreation and Parks deputy director Heather H. Ernst said they are preparing to mount a defense after reviewing evidence authorities say supports felony charges of theft.

Andrea Litchfield, a Hilliard police spokeswoman, said the case remains active and police could not comment on certain parts of the investigation, including how investigators determined more than $540,000 was stolen from the city’s two pool facilities.

Ernst is scheduled for arraignment March 16 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

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