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California city may rehire ’Gangnam Style’ lifeguards

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LOS ANGELES >> Officials in El Monte, Calif., expect to vote this month to rehire the lifeguards who were fired after they made a video spoof using the city pool while wearing city-issued uniforms – without permission.

The lifeguards – 13 college-age students and their manager – parodied “Gangnam Style,” a Korean pop video that has drawn nearly 360 million views on the Internet, becoming the most-liked song on YouTube. They were fired in September after their video, called “Lifeguard Style,” surfaced on the Internet.

Mayor Andre Quintero said he will call for a formal vote at the Oct. 17 City Council meeting and urge his colleagues to reinstate the lifeguards, who have drawn local and global support through their Facebook page with more than 17,000 fans. Nearly 300 people packed a recent council meeting demanding that the guards be rehired.

Quintero said Dayle Keller, interim city manager, has hired a contractor to review the steps leading to their termination “and as we do the investigation, we need them to cooperate” and the lifeguards “can’t do that if they’re not employed.”

“This is more than just about a video,” he said, noting the need for a “deeper look at the management” of El Monte’s aquatics center.

The mayor said he wondered “how can 14 people put together a video and no one from management knew what was going on?”

Lifeguard Michael Roa, 22, who worked at the center for seven years, said it’s uplifting to hear Quintero talk about rehiring.

“I would say that his decision follows logic. For me, I would accept reinstatement, only if I could resign and get that off my record. I want to leave in good standing,” he added.

As a recent graduate of Loyola Marymount University with a degree in psychology, he wants to focus on finding a full-time job to support himself while taking graduate-level courses at the University of La Verne.

Quintero said he hopes the city’s investigation will be completed in less than a month.

“At the end of the day, we have a center that our community loves,” he said.

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