City: Free-golf probe leads to Beloit parks director's resignation, employee's suspension

City: Free-golf probe leads to Beloit...

BELOIT, Wis. - Beloit's parks and recreation director resigned and a golf course supervisor was suspended over a probe into free golf and cart passes given to city employees and their relatives, according to a memo authored by City Manager Lori Curtis Luther.

According to the memo, dated Monday, the investigation was spurred by a May complaint that a city employee was receiving free golf and cart passes at the Krueger-Haskell Municipal Golf Course in exchange for cleaning clubhouse windows on the weekends.

Luther said the investigation's findings are "of great concern" and the city is addressing the issues raised. 

The investigation substantiated those claims and found nearly 2,700 rounds of free golf and cart passes were used between 2014 and July 2017, according to the memo. That equals approximately $111,663 in golf services. A lack of records complicates calculating the total economic impact, however, the city said. 

"Frankly I'm convinced that in addition to the nearly 2,700 rounds of free golf we uncovered, there were others that were likely off the books completely," Luther said Tuesday in an interview with News 3.

The Krueger-Haskell course has long run a deficit, Luther said.

"The investigation revealed a pervasive culture that has permitted free golf and cart usage to be bartered for volunteer hours worked, for other services rendered, and being treated as a 'perk' for certain employees," the memo said.

"What we can demonstrate is the majority of individuals had some direct relationship with the golf course itself," Luther said. "In my mind, it doesn't negate that this is an ethical violation."

The actions violated a city code of ethics policy and the Fair Labor Standards Act, city officials said. 

"We are not permitted under a code of ethics to receive anything of value," Luther said. "These volunteers may have been receiving something of compensatory value or taxable income. At some point, you have to weigh whether or not that is truly volunteer work, or if there is a form of compensation that's being provided." 

Parks and Recreation Director Brian Ramsey resigned, according to the memo. The golf course supervisor, Mark Young, received a suspension and will reimburse the city for golf and cart fees. 

Luther said officials determined the matter did not merit a criminal investigation.

Any volunteers or non-supervisor employees who received free golf or passes were told to cease and to pay for golf services in the future, but they won't be required to reimburse the city. 

Public Works Department staff will receive refresher training on state and local codes of ethics, and special training on policies for volunteers will be developed, the city said. 

Luther said there will also be additional training for city supervisors on proper maintenance of public records.

"I can simply say that we are not going to allow this to continue, clearly, and we are going to continue to right the ship," Luther said.

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