Brenner did not ‘demand’ free golf
Steamboat Springs — A Haymaker Golf Course official downplayed an incident that has raised questions about the ethics of Steamboat Springs City Councilman Ken Brenner.
Attorney John Vanderbloemen, who has been chairman of the Haymaker Golf Management Committee since the course opened in 1997, said implications that Brenner demanded free rounds of golf or a free season pass to Haymaker last summer are incorrect. Former City Manager Paul Hughes raised the issue during a council meeting Tuesday, when he accused Brenner of using his council position to request free golf.
“Did Ken demand or request a season pass for himself? No, he asked the question for council members,” Vanderbloemen said. “I think it’s a fact that this was a question – this was not a demand by any means.”
Hughes questioned whether the distinction – between asking and demanding – changes the ethical issue.
“Isn’t that still asking for golf passes?” Hughes said Thursday.
Last week, Steamboat resident Bob Maddox publicly questioned the free season pass to the Steamboat Ski Area that Brenner received from Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Brenner returned the pass last week, but said the pass is related to his volunteer work in ski coaching and ski race management, a position supported by local ski officials.
Vanderbloemen, who partners in his law firm with city attorney Tony Lettunich, said the question of whether to give free golf passes to council members or city employees did not begin with Brenner.
“It’s a question that has come up in years past,” Vanderbloemen said. “We ended up getting the question of: ‘Can city employees get any special discounts or deals at Haymaker that the general public doesn’t get, as a perk to city employees?'”
Vanderbloemen said such questions even came from Hughes, who served as city manager from 1998 to 2005.
“Paul Hughes never asked about golf for himself. He was asking about any additional benefits that could help in securing and maintaining good city employees,” Vanderbloemen said.
Hughes said during his tenure, he often would pass on requests for golf passes from the city’s Employee Committee to Haymaker staff. The Employee Committee typically requests benefits such as paid time off or vision insurance, Hughes said.
“Every year, they come in with something they would like the city to supply next year, and certainly golf passes came up several years. There are employees who would bring it up every year, and I would carry that request to the golf committee or to Chris Wilson (director of the city’s Department of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services),” Hughes said. “John (Vanderbloemen) is absolutely right – I never asked about free golf for myself or my staff.”
Vanderbloemen stressed the Golf Management Committee is an advisory board, appointed by the council, which makes policy recommendations to the council.
The committee has yet to formalize a recommendation regarding whether to give free passes to city employees, Vanderbloemen said.
John Thrasher, a human resources manager for the city, said city employees do receive perks such as free skiing at Howelsen Hill, free skating at Howelsen Ice Arena and a discount at The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.
While Haymaker is a city-owned course, there is a reason every request for free golf passes for city employees so far has been answered with a no.
“Our task is to try to make Haymaker succeed as an operation. The pricing for golf to locals is already below break-even,” Vanderbloemen said. “To further discount it from an economic standpoint really doesn’t make sense. We’d rather not get into another discounted program.”
Vanderbloemen is scheduled to appear before the council Tuesday to recommend Haymaker’s rates for the 2007 season.
– To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203
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