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Lifeguards fired over 'Gangnam Style' video make case to City Council

September 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Dozens of people showed up at El Monte City Hall Tuesday night in support of the lifeguards who were fired after spoofing a popular music video.

Several of the 13 fired lifeguards and their manager spoke out at the City Council meeting.

"Termination should have been the last plan of action, but it was the only one taken. The punishment doesn't fit the crime," said fired lifeguard Michael Roa.

The trouble centers around a video posted on YouTube. It's a parody of the original version of the song "Gangnam Style" by Korean singer PSY. Many people, from cheerleaders to Navy sailors in uniform, have made their own versions.

"I love teaching kids. I love being in the water. Teaching my kids was the best thing ever to happen to me and to lose that part of my life is really terrible," said fired lifeguard Yvonne Tam.

The lifeguards weren't alone. It was an overflow crowd as nearly 250 people packed the meeting.

"The creator himself of the video and the song is asking our city to think twice for the decisions they have made. I, too, ask the same of the city," said John Rodriguez of El Monte.

The lifeguards said they did it in fun and never thought they would get fired, but the city said it was a clear unauthorized use of a city facility by city employees in their uniforms.

"There is no refuting that the lifeguards broke a city policy, but the harsh overreaction of city's management about a trivial YouTube video was unwarranted," said Gabriella Sandoval of El Monte.

Mayor Andre Quintero has called for an independent review of the situation.

"I think it's very important that we take a very good and thorough look at what happened so that we can avoid this from happening again," said Quintero.

Quintero said no immediate decision will be made in terms of rehiring the lifeguards and that it's ultimately up to the city manager.


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