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MononaGolfCourse3-09132017135439 (copy)

Golfers enjoy a summer round at the Monona Golf Course.

A golf professional offered to pay Madison around $425,000 annually to manage its four golf shop operations starting in 2013 but said no city officials contacted him after he submitted his proposal and was never told why it was rejected.

Former Monona Golf Course pro Rob Muranyi had his proposal introduced as evidence during a civil trial involving Muranyi and three other former golf pros at city courses who are suing the city for unlawful termination of their contracts in 2012.

That followed testimony from Mayor Paul Soglin who told the court Wednesday that the proposals from the golf pros to close the widening gap between the revenues and expenses of the city’s golf course operations “were so out of line ... that it was frustrating in terms of pursuing (them).”

Muranyi as well as former Odana Hills pro Tom Benson, Yahara Hills pro Mark Rechlicz and Glenway pro Bill Scheer are seeking $2.3 million in lost income from the city. They say then-Parks Division Superintendent Kevin Briski “rigged the process” and lied to Soglin, City Council members and others to get the City Council to approve his plan that included voting not to renew the pros’ contracts with the city and replacing them with cheaper help.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the trial that began Monday as part of its landmark ruling in June 2017 that the pros had the right to sue the city because their contracts were “dealerships” under the Wisconsin Fair Dealership law and could be terminated only for cause. The burden is on the city to prove it had good cause to fire the pros and that it gave them proper notice.

The city’s attorneys have contended during the trial that the city’s decision to fire the pros so it could collect all the revenue they had been receiving from golf cart rentals, food and beverage sales, and other areas was a reasonable response to the courses’ total operating losses from 2003 through 2012 reaching $686,000.

The golf pros’ attorneys contend that Briski was more focused on getting rid of the pros than putting together a solid plan that would create more revenues. All four pros testified that they submitted proposals within the six-week deadline Briski gave them during an Aug. 1, 2012 meeting. All four testified that neither Briski nor anybody else from the city called afterward to discuss their proposals.

Soglin, as well as Ald. Paul Skidmore, testified that they never saw the proposals and were told that they were rejected because they would not increase revenues. Soglin also testified that he endorsed Briski’s plan because it came with an estimate of increasing revenues that were much needed as part of the 2013 budget process.

When asked by the golf pros’ attorney Kevin Palmersheim if he would have endorsed a plan that would add more than $400,000 in revenues, Soglin answered, “That would be nice” but added the caveat that it had to be after expenses were added.

That’s what one of five proposals Muranyi submitted to the city offered, he said. He told Briski he would be willing to negotiate a flat fee of around $425,000 or he’d lease all four courses for $1 and return 15 percent of gross sales from greens fees, 12 percent of gross sales from mobile carts and other rental fees and 11 percent of gross sales from food and beverage concessions. He estimated the total revenues on an average season would be about $425,000.

Muranyi said a golf course superintendent, another PGA of America golf pro and an accountant would join him on the management team.

Former city director of golf Ray Shane testified Thursday that other factors other than fewer customers led to the decline of the golf courses’ enterprise fund. Shane testified that it was his opinion that a program where the golf courses must pay a fee ($171,000 in 2012) to the city based on what it would pay in taxes if it were privately owned came out of the fund. So did other city services like maintenance teams that charged $100 to $130 to change the oil on the courses’ maintenance equipment. That didn’t happen until about 15 years ago, he testified.

Also, accountant Greg Lafreniere testified that he reviewed financial documents from the golf pros and the city about the golf course clubhouse operations and determined that the city did not perform an adequate analysis of what it would cost the city to run the clubhouses without the golf pros before it reached its decision to replace them.

Rob Schultz has won multiple writing awards at the state and national levels and covers an array of topics for the Wisconsin State Journal in south-central and southwestern Wisconsin.

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