Marina Davidovich

A popular Sandy Springs gymnastics instructor was arrested for shoplifting shortly before she parted ways with the city.

City Manager John McDonough said the decision to end Marina Davidovich’s contract with the city was a mutual decision between the two parties, but would not say whether the arrest was a factor.

Davidovich told a reporter that the stress from running a wildly successful program for the last five years at the Hammond Park gym caused her to have a momentary lapse in judgment. She called the arrest a “misunderstanding” and said the charges were dropped.

Davidovich said she hopes people can forgive her.

“I love teaching,” she said. “I don’t know if people will lose faith in me and stop trusting me. That would be heartbreaking. It was completely out of my character.”

Davidovich, a Ukraine native, is beloved by her students and was a trainer for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. She was also was once voted “coach of the year” by USA gymnastics.

Davidovich said she worked tirelessly to make the city’s gymnastics program a success.

“I’ve created a monster that I could not handle, so the fatigue and physical and emotional stress got to me to the point that I collapsed in the middle of the day,” she said. “It was not pleasant.”

The arrest occurred on July 7, a week before her recently renewed contract was dissolved on July 15. Sandy Springs City Council held a closed-door meeting to discuss a personnel issue on July 12, records show.

Davidovich was charged with stealing $58.46 in merchandise from the Costco on Peachtree Dunwoody Road, including brand-name clothes and a double pack of chicken breasts concealed in a shoulder bag, according to a Sandy Springs police report.

“What I can tell you is Sandy Springs Recreation (Davidovich’s company) and the city of SandySprings determined to end that contract,” McDonough said. “I think my statement speaks for itself.”

Parents at Hammond Park gym said on Aug. 17 that city officials have not told them why Davidovich left, and said they missed her.

When the City Council signed a five-year extension for her in June, city staff reported that Davidovich had increased enrollment from 100 children to 1,200 children. At the time, Parks and Recreation Director Ronnie Young called her “very dedicated” and said she “will conduct a first class program as a contract vendor.”

At its Aug. 2 meeting, the council changed management of the gym by issuing a $222,830 task order to one of its current contractors, Jacobs Engineering. An employee at the gym told a reporter Jacobs Engineering had kept all the other staff at the gym.

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of Decaturish.com