DUNEDIN — Sandy Keith, a native of Scotland who had taught bagpipes as a city employee for nearly three decades, is out as director of the City of Dunedin Pipe Band.
The city terminated its contract with Keith on April 15 after an incident March 28 during the Dunedin Military Tattoo at Dunedin High School, city officials confirmed Friday.
"He was terminated for inappropriate behavior in the eye of the public at this military tattoo," said Vince Gizzi, the city's director of parks and recreation. "We have letters from the person who was kind of getting yelled at and cursed at and we have letters from witnesses."
Margaret Howard, a dance teacher, and Rick Rowley of Largo, whose daughter takes dance from Howard, sent letters to the city outlining the event. In the letters, this is the scene they described:
During practice, the band played through a song that was supposed to have dancers, but the young dancers were not there yet. When the girls arrived, Howard asked Keith if they were still going to dance. Keith's answer included the f-word twice, once in reference to the dancers standing nearby. Howard wrote that Keith also made a derogatory comment meant to criticize the girls' weight.
Reached Friday, Keith had no comment.
Keith retired in October as a city employee, but was hired back on a contract basis to lead the City of Dunedin Pipe Band.
The city was paying him $20 an hour, about $14,000 per year to direct the band, Gizzi said.
Keith also directs the Dunedin Highland Middle School and Dunedin High School pipe bands and organizes the Dunedin Highland Games and Spring Clan Gathering, the Military Tattoo and the Dunedin Celtic Festival.
The middle school and high school, which have separate agreements with Keith, will have him finish the school year, but won't renew his contract past June, Gizzi said. That was confirmed by an e-mail from Paul Summa, Dunedin High School principal, to City Manager Rob DiSpirito.
The city is forming a committee to look for a new director for the three bands.
"We have a responsibility to make sure representatives of the city don't engage in unacceptable behavior, particularly in front of children," DiSpirito said.
The city simply can't ignore the behavior, he said, since Keith was paid with tax dollars.
"This is not representative of his involvement with children over the years — it's not," DiSpirito said. "We admire and commend him for years of service to the community."
Theresa Blackwell can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4170.