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Golf pro lawsuit ends up costing Madison more than $1.2 million

November 29, 2018

The city of Madison has reached a settlement with four golf pros who successfully sued the city this summer for failing to show good cause for not renewing their contracts in 2012.

As part of its agreement to not appeal a jury’s verdict at a civil trial in July, the city has paid the golf pros $287,400 in damages awarded by the jury. The city also has paid the golf pros just over $5,000 in interest and will pay their attorney’s fees that are just under $931,000, an amount negotiated after the verdict was reached.

With the agreement, the city will pay the golf pros and their lawyers more than $1.2 million.

The city’s insurer, Wisconsin Municipal Mutual Insurance Company, has already paid former Odana Hills pro Tom Benson, Monona golf pro Rob Muranyi, Yahara Hills pro Mark Rechlicz and Glenway pro Bill Scheer, and will pay their attorneys in early January, according to the settlement agreement.

A landmark decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in June 2017 opened the door for the pros to sue the city when it ruled that their contracts with the city were “dealerships” under the Wisconsin Fair Dealership law and could be terminated only for cause. The ruling forced the city to prove that firing them was the least extreme of all potential decisions it could have made.

The city argued that former Parks Division director Kevin Briski’s decision to remove the pros was a reasonable response to the courses’ plummeting operating losses from 2003 through 2012 that reached $686,000. Briski’s plan called for the city to collect revenues the pros had been receiving from golf cart rentals, food and beverage sales.

But the golf pros’ attorney, Kevin Palmersheim, convinced the jury that Briski rigged the process to get his plan approved.

While the golf pros were thrilled with the verdict, the damages came in well short of the $2.3 million they were seeking.

In what was roughly a year’s income for each of the pros, the jury awarded Rechlicz $110,500, Scheer was awarded $82,000, Muranyi was awarded $54,500 and Benson was awarded $32,900. The bulk of the awards were for lost income, although each payment also included damages for the city failing to give proper notice of non-renewal.

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