Malibu Marlins make a show of force at City Hall

Members and advocates of the Malibu Marlins Swim Club gather at City Hall in support of the club. Contributed Photo

Swim club advocating for more pool time disappointed in cancellation of Parks and Rec meeting 

A contingent of swimmers in Malibu was expected to make a public stand at the Feb. 26 Malibu City Council meeting after a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting was canceled last week at the eleventh hour. 

As many as 40 members of the Marlins Swim Club drove to City Hall on a rainy evening Feb. 20 only to find the commission canceled its meeting just 90 minutes beforehand, catching most Marlins unaware.

The Marlins showed up at the Parks and Rec meeting to express their support for Erik Ran, who was fired as head coach of the Malibu Seawolves last year and is now head coach for the newly formed Marlins. The Marlins have expressed frustration with the Malibu Aquatics Foundation, which runs the Seawolves program and is the city’s swim vendor.

“We feel we’ve been handled not fairly,” said Marlins president Ani Dermenjian. “In the pouring rain we all left to come and an hour before they canceled. It’s not acceptable.” 

The swim club came prepared with signs and speeches to argue for a democratic process in governance of the city program. They were disappointed at the last-minute cancellation, but it was unavoidable according to one commissioner.

Suzanne Guldimann is vice chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, about to wrap up eight years of service to the community. 

“It was absolutely canceled at the last minute,” Guldimann confirmed. “We only had a three-person quorum. We were under a flood watch and getting in was challenging.” 

There were reports of a road caving in and a car over the side in the Saddle Peak neighborhood, confirming the danger to some drivers. While dozens of Marlins swimmers managed to make the drive, Guldimann said one commissioner had serious car trouble negotiating a pothole and was unable to make it. 

“It was certainly not intentional,” she explained. “We make absolutely every effort to be there, but we’re just volunteers and regular Malibu residents too and sometimes life gets in the way of these things.”

Guldimann confirmed a December meeting was also canceled. 

“It’s not uncommon,” the commissioner explained. “People travel, they get sick, we have three members with young children so things can get a little bit complicated.”

The Marlins Swim Club has been frustrated with what they’ve called a lack of communication with the city that awarded the contract to provide service to the Malibu Aquatics Foundation, the city’s longtime vendor.

A subcommittee with commissioners Alicia Peak and Dane Skophammer was established to look into the debate in the Malibu swimming community over how to accommodate two swim clubs. The split in the swim community occurred in June when the MAF board fired Ran and hired a new coach without consulting members. Those disappointed members formed their own club, the Marlins, but were unable to secure time at the pool other than 6:30 a.m. In a related development previously reported in The Malibu Times, the Seawolves let their new coach go due to financial conditions.

Dermenjian said of Ran’s firing, “We were disappointed how the whole process was handled because no one asked the parents what we thought. The Marlins are struggling because the city is not working with us to give us the hours we need. It’s unfortunate because at the end of the day it’s all about our children. That’s who is suffering here.”

Dermenjian recently met with MAF board member Joe Sichta to talk about mending fences between the two swim clubs. 

“He’s wonderful,” she commented. “We have only two things we’ve been asking for from day one. We want coach Erik Ran to be the head coach and we want transparency when we’re creating a board. We want a democratic process. That’s it.”

Dermenjian has suggested bringing both boards together to try to work out a solution.

Guldimann reminded, “We are just an advisory commission. I think there’s a tremendous amount of support for the Marlins. In a perfect city of Malibu, we would have our own swimming pool and this would not be an issue. Because we share with the city, our time is very limited. The Seawolves (MAF) put in their application first last year. There was no room to change that. We’re all very supportive. We want to see our swim activities and everyone have the best opportunities to participate and thrive.

“The kids unfortunately are the collateral damage in this. We all need to work together to make sure we have a good, strong, functioning swim program that serves the largest number of Malibu residents possible.”