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I have discovered that there is no shortage of interesting, sometimes humorous and occasionally outright quirky legal disputes that have a golf connection. Please enjoy

I also invite you to join the Golf Dispute Resolution Linked In group, which has more than 2000 members.

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Please don’t hesitate to share ideas for either the blog or the Linked In group.

By way of background, I am an attorney who serves as general counsel to a financial services company.  I also frequently serve as a mediator and arbitrator. And, of course,  I enjoy golf, most often at the Yale Golf Course. You can learn more about my experience here.

Now, for the required disclaimer, so I can remain in the good graces of the legal ethics powers-that-be:  This website, which may constitute Attorney Advertising in some jurisdictions, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Best,

Rob Harris
rharris@golfdisputeresolution.com
914-482-2448

 

 

By: Rob Harris

Unlike other neighborhood associations who have challenged golf course owners’ attempts to turn fairways into housing by invoking the delights of green space, Colorado’s Applewood Property Owners Association may have pulled a stone rabbit from its neighborhood hat.

Sure, there’s nothing unique in the fact that the APOA brought suit against the owner of Applewood Golf Course, in an attempt to block rezoning the property to permit the construction of 400 homes.

But instead of creating images of green beauty turning into aluminum siding, the APOA predicates its lawsuit on fears that the evil developer will destroy the ambiance created by, ready for this, sand and gravel.

Yep.

I can’t state it any better than the APOA’s attorneys do in the complaint’s leading paragraph:

“Over 40 years after Colorado acted to preserve access to valuable minerals in populous counties, one such deposit is at risk of being overlain by 400 single family houses, forever preventing its extraction and use. This case seeks a declaratory judgment about the interpretation and applicability of the Minerals Preservation Act … with respect to a 141.2 acre tract … on which is located the Applewood Golf Course. Applewood is located atop a commercial deposit of sand and gravel,and the Minerals Preservation Act prohibits a board of county commissioners from rezoning areas, such as Applewood, containing a known commercial mineral deposit “in a manner which would interfere with the present or future excavation of such deposit by an extractor.”

Well played, attorneys, well played.

As the complaint continues:

“Notwithstanding this clear prohibition, defendant Applewood West Holdings LLC, has applied for, and Jefferson County is considering, a rezoning of the Applewood property that would allow for the construction of 400 single family residences. Because such a development is entirely incompatible with the extraction of the mineral resources beneath Applewood, any rezoning would be in violation of the law. A declaration clarifying the applicability of the Minerals Preservation Act will prevent the parties’ unnecessary expenditure of resources on a rezoning effort unsupported by law.”

One gratuitous suggestion to the APOA. Amend your mission statement, which currently reads:

“The Board of Directors of the Applewood Property Owners Association shall promote a sense of community and enhance the livability, safety, welfare, and interests of Applewood property owners in an effort to create the best possible neighborhood experience.”

Consider adding something about the rocks!


By: Rob Harris

With minimal help from a talented screenwriter, this story could be a summer blockbuster movie.

A New Jersey megachurch–Agape Family Worship Center (formerly known as The Love Church)–has sued its accountant, Donald Gridiron, Jr. (recently charged with criminal fraud), claiming that he stole $5,000,000 and transferred almost $2,000,000 of it to the Western States Golf Association, who he also served as accountant and treasurer.

According to a published report, “the WSGA, based in Corona, Calif., is an association of golf clubs in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Created in 1954, the WSGA provides college scholarships and sponsors an annual golf tournament for its members.     The church claims that Gridiron transferred $3 million from Agape accounts to himself, $1.9 million to the WSGA, and $40,000 to Gridiron’s personal American Express account.”

And, my favorite: “The lawsuit does not say why Gridiron sent money to the WSGA.”

By: Rob Harris

Being a “Friend of Crooked Creek” does not necessarily make one friendly. That seems to be the take away from this news item, reporting on the intra-neighborhood feuding arising out of the plans to turn North Carolina’s Crooked Creek Golf Course into a residential development.

As have many neighborhood groups facing similar challenges to preserving local golf courses as green space, FOCC include in their arsenal a  websitedescribing their mission as follows:

“Friends of Crooked Creek, LLC is a group of residents, supporters and golfers who have joined together to stop developers from destroying our community. We are fighting to protect our investments in our property and the quality of life in our community.

“Even though our membership includes a majority of home owners living on or near the golf course, residents outside of Crooked Creek have also taken interest in the potential destruction of the golf course. The Town of Fuquay is approving rezoning requests for residential development left and right of Crooked Creek. Many believe the infrastructure of the area cannot currently accommodate this rapid growth without decreasing safety and diminishing the quality of life of those already living in the area. Preserving open space and stopping the overcrowding of roads and schools is part of the larger issue to protect the quality of life in this end of Wake County.”

Apparently, the group has not corralled unanimous support, and several homeowners actually provided affidavits to be used in court proceedings by the course owners. Following a court ruling adverse to FOCC, those neighbors who supplied affidavits received an anonymous and vitriolic letter:

“You are among some of the world’s most despicable traitors… Do you think you are going to be able to live in this neighborhood? Not many people liked you before, but with your aid to the enemy, you are truly despised.”

The summer block party should be a doozy.

Here’s the latest on the he said / he said versions surrounding Robert Allenby’s mid-round firing of caddie Mick Middlemo:

Other caddie supports Middlemo’s version of dispute with Allenby

By: Rob Harris

According to Wikipedia:

“In 2011, Bae Sang-moon finished as the leading money winner on the Japan Golf Tour for the season after winning three tournaments… At the end of the year, he competed at the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, where he finished T11 to secure his playing rights for the 2012 PGA Tour season.

“Bae started the season very strongly, making all of his first eight cuts on the PGA Tour. He recorded his first top-10 finish of the year when he reached the quarter-finals at the 2012 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship… In March 2012, Bae lost in a four-man playoff at the Transitions Championship on the PGA Tour.

“In May 2013, Bae won his first PGA Tour event at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, beating Keegan Bradley by two strokes.”

In 2014, he won again on the Tour, this time at the Frys.com Open.

Success on the PGA Tour is one thing; South Korean citizenship is another.

A South Korean court has determined that Bae must satisfy his country’s compulsory two year military service.

Bae has indicated he will comply. ”I completely respect the court’s decision, and I humbly accept the judgment by the law.”

Service does not come without its privileges. Bae will earn approximately $130 per month.


By: Rob Harris

Here’s a good one:

“It seems like a stretch, but could golf superstar Jordan Spieth have cost Under Armour (NYSE: UA) investors $120 million on Monday?

“Perhaps coincidentally, the sports apparel company’s stock dipped from its session high of $89.47 at around 1:34 p.m. ET to as low as $88.79 at about 1:47 p.m. ET after Spieth’s shot.

“With a market cap of about $19.2 billion and roughly 215.7 million shares outstanding, the dip translates into a loss of about $120 million.”

Read the full post here.

By: Rob Harris

The governing boards of golf clubs sometimes are called upon to discipline members for actions deemed in violation of rules or otherwise inappropriate.

Britain’s Whetstone Golf Club recently suspended three female members, including Ladies’ Captain Pam Nutting, competition secretary Lesley Bailey and a third member, Janet Morris, for what has been characterized as “unbecoming behavior.”

And what was this “unbecoming behavior”?  Blatant cheating in a club tournament? Unruly conduct at the holiday social? Not exactly….

Reportedly, after completing their round, the three golfers headed for the club dining room, where they encountered a group of mothers and children, including one mother engaged in breast feeding.  One of the offenders was heard commenting, “gosh, are we running a crèche?” The comment that may have broke the club board’s back, however, may have been the one stating that the breastfeeding mom was putting them “right off their food.”

Following these comments, the three members found themselves on the receiving end of a club suspension. Two of the members subsequently resigned in protest, with the third having opted to challenge her suspension.

All in a day’s work for a club board.

 

By: Rob Harris

Many are aware that, following a five week trial, a jury found former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen guilty of multiple counts of corruption. On July 10, a federal appeals court upheld the former governor’s conviction. The underlying facts centered on the relationship between Governor McDonnell, his wife and a benefactor, Johnnie Williams, whose business ventures seemingly would benefit from the Governor’s support.

In affirming the jury’s verdict, the appellate court had an opportunity to comment on the role golf played in Mr. McDonnell’s downfall:

On May 29, 2011, Governor McDonnell, “his two sons, and his soon-to-be son-in-law spent the day at Kinloch Golf Club in Manakin-Sabot, Virginia. During this outing, they spent more than seven hours playing golf, eating,and shopping. Williams, who was not present, covered the$2,380.24 bill.”

In June 2011, Mr. Williams and Governor McDonnell both attended a retreat at the Omni Homestead Resort, funded by the governor’s political action committee. “Appellant and Williams played golf together during the retreat. A few days later, Williams sent golf bags with brand new clubs and golf shoes to Appellant and one of his sons.”

“Appellant and one of his sons returned to Kinloch Golf Club on August 13, 2011. The bill for this golf outing, whichWilliams again paid, was $1,309.17.”

“[O]n January 7, 2012, Appellant made another golf visit to Kinloch Golf Club, running up a $1,368.91 bill that Williams again paid. Appellant omitted this golf outing and the 2011 golf trips from his Statements of Economic Interest.”

“On January 4,2013, Emily Rabbitt — Appellant’s travel aide and deputydirector of scheduling — asked Adam Zubowsky for advice about planning golf trips for Appellant. Zubowsky — once Appellant’s travel aide and later Appellant’s son-in-law — responded in an email dated January 4, 2013: ‘Yes basically this means find out who we know in these cities, that owns golf courses and will let me and my family play for free,or at a reduced cost. Also finding out where to stay for free / or reduced cost. So this means . . . find out about pac donors, and rga donors, who will host rfm.”

 

By: Rob Harris

Arizona’s Quintero Golf Club ran into financial difficulties, described as follows by the United States Court of Appeals:

“Appellants are investors who suffered losses when an Arizona golf course and residential development failed, allegedly due to the fraud and mismanagement of the developer, Gary McClung.”

In the litigation equivalent of “shooting the messenger,” the court next explained that the alleged victims had sued the bank:

“Unable to recover from the insolvent McClung,appellants filed this action in state court against the development’s principal lender, Hillcrest Bank, and its directors, officers, and sole shareholder, asserting numerous claims.”

Unimpressed by the investors’ decision to sue the bank and its leadership team, the lower court threw out all sixteen counts of the complaint. And, no surprise–the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court.

“Like the district court, we find it ‘incredibly difficult to sift through [appellants’] 72 single-spaced pages and 340 numbered paragraphs to ascertain any coherent argument as to why [defendants] are liable.’ The bulk of appellants’ highly confusing Omnibus Petition consists of sheer speculation and conclusory allegations of defendants’ wrongdoing. At oral argument, counsel declined to prioritize appellants’ fifteen claims of reversible error. The district court discussed in detail why each count failed to state a claim. We have little to add.”

Those interested in a crash course on the uphill battle faced by investors who choose to blame the bank for the failures of the borrower, can read the full opinion here.

By: Rob Harris

According to a published report, Melissa Conde has filed suit against Pennsylvania’s Huntsville Golf Club, in which she asserts that “she was fired …after getting into an argument with a co-worker who alleged Conde used ‘F bombs’ and threatened to kill her during an event for dozens of physicians.”

While some of you may think that such conduct would in fact constitute adequate grounds for termination, Ms. Conde claims that her firing was really in retaliation for her challenging unlawful conduct by the club and its employees.

According to Ms. Conde, the club consistently asked her to work on Sundays, notwithstanding that she was a churchgoer Who, after services, “spent the rest of the day to reflect in prayer.”

In addition to her claim of religious discrimination, Ms. Conde’s complaint alleges that the club failed to expel a member after he “grazed Conde’s breast and said she looked like she would ‘qualify’ to work at his strip club.”

Employment litigation is an area fertile with factual disputes about the circumstances surrounding employment and discharge, and it appears as though Ms. Conde’s suit against Huntsville Golf Club fits this profile. Stay tuned for an answering statement from the club that likely will paint a different picture than that of Ms. Conde’s complaint.

 

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