Schenectady golf pro exits angry, and poorer
SCHENECTADY Days after being fired, the former golf pro at the Schenectady Municipal Golf Course sent a scathing letter of resignation to the city, blaming the mayor for cutting his pay and causing him extreme stress.
“I’ve reached a level of stress, even in the offseason, which has made it difficult to focus on simple tasks and to maintain the high standards that I implemented from 2005–2010,” Brian Damon wrote in a resignation letter after Mayor Gary McCarthy fired him.
McCarthy said it was clear that Damon was deeply unhappy with the pay cut he took in April 2011, when he went from private contractor to employee at the Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
“He says it’s not about the money, but he was making a lot more money,” McCarthy said. “But it was still a good deal. It was $85,000 plus he got to keep the teaching fees and the pro shop, which just will not happen anymore.”
Damon wrote that running the course as an employee, rather than as his own boss, became “extremely difficult.”
He also wrote that he simply could not continue the job with the pay cut he received when he became a city employee.
In 2010, the City Council decided the city should keep all driving-range and golf cart revenue, rather than letting the golf pro keep it. Damon argued that he made very little money on the carts after paying for maintenance, fuel and insurance. But the City Council said the revenue was needed to bolster city finances.
Damon said that decision was wrong.
“But you and I really do know why I’ve reached my breaking point,” he wrote. “During the summer campaign of 2010, an erroneous and malicious report was leaked the golf pro was making upwards of $350,000 per year.”
Finance Commissioner Ismat Alam told the City Council that Damon had earned $300,000 that year in cart rentals, as well as about $200,000 in driving-range fees and $16,000 in city pay. He also got to keep all money he made from teaching lessons at the course and from the sales at his pro shop.
Damon wrote in his resignation letter that council members would not look at his books when he offered them as proof that he was actually making only $30,000 in profit above his $16,000 salary. The Daily Gazette requested to see the books and he refused.
Council members said recently they reviewed records he offered and were still sure he was making much more than $30,000. In any case, they insisted that he receive a regular salary and benefits rather than keeping course revenue.
Damon said he was deeply betrayed by that decision.
“You haven’t been behind me since you decided to run for mayor,” he wrote. “It is clear on almost every decision you’ve made concerning the golf course. I recall that virtually all decisions were the opposite of the response I was anticipating, which was a major change from when you were councilman.”
He also complained that he could not add $5 to the fee for tournaments to push players to buy at the pro shop. He had previously added $5 to each fee as a credit in the pro shop. Since most items in the shop cost more than $5, he usually made a significant profit.
Without that credit, he said he could not afford to pay his vendors this year.
He also wrote that running the pro shop was unlawful because he was now a city employee.
McCarthy said Damon wasn’t breaking the law by running the shop, but that it “created points of contention” regarding ethics. Employees can’t push customers to their private business, so he said the pro shop should be run by the city in the future.
McCarthy also hopes to restructure the entire position with a new golf pro. He wants that pro to accept the $85,000 salary and share the revenue from golf lessons.