Monday, February 27, 2017

The Watchdog Report: The Mystery of Golf Corporate Memberships

The Watchdog Report
by Mike Zinkin

The Mystery of the Corporate Membership
The Community Center golf memberships for December reveal 228 members, which is two memberships less than in November. What was also interesting is that a new category appeared…Corporate Memberships. There were three Corporate Memberships added in December.

Town conceals information
Since there is no information about this mysterious membership category on the Town's website, nor has there been any media advertising, I contacted the Town to request information about this new category. My request included the cost and benefits of a membership, as well as the names of the three corporate members. I received the following response:
"Corporate golf memberships are being offered by Troon. The membership costs and benefits vary depending on the needs of the potential corporate golf member. Regarding your request as to who currently holds corporate golf memberships, you may contact Troon."

This is typical of the Town’s usual response to my questions… obfuscate, camouflage, befuddle. I imagine that the goal is, “Ignore him and he will go away.” Except that I won’t. Their answer was a non-answer, so I appealed to the Town Manager. I received the following response from his office:
"Troon informed me that they do not release names or personal information in order to protect the privacy of their members or dependents. The Town typically redacts personal information (names, addresses, etc.) of our public records as well."
Obfuscation 101
First, I would understand the “privacy” issue if this was a private golf club, but this is a municipal golf club, supplemented by the Town’s residents, and as such, membership rolls (including corporate members) should be public knowledge.

Second, you will notice that the Town also did not answer my questions regarding the costs and benefits of a membership and gave no reason for not releasing this information. Clearly, costs and benefits information does not fall under “privacy” issues.

A high school math “word problem”
In November 2016, the member dues were $58,455. In December 2016 the member dues were $59,444. This means that in December, the Town collected an additional $989 in member dues. With two less usual members and three more corporate members, it appears that the corporate membership yields the Town about $330.00/member. These are the same dues that a non-resident "Explorer" member pays.

Stonewalling the taxpayers
I do not understand the "stonewalling" by Troon and the Town in informing me of the costs and benefits of a corporate membership. I will stress again that this golf club is subsidized by Oro Valley taxpayers and all information pertaining to the Community Center and Golf Courses should be public knowledge. So much for open government.
Mike Zinkin is a long-time Oro Valley resident. Mike is also a golfer. Mike was in an Valley Council member from 2012 through 2016. He has been following the community center/golf situation closely from its inception. He has consistently argued  for ways to rationalize Oro Valley's operations of these golf courses. His pleas for action were ignored by the Council majority until after Mike left office in November. Then, suddenly, the Council decided that they needed to study what is, now they admit, a very serious problem.