The Board of City Directors has narrowly approved negotiating a 10-year management contract with American Golf Corp. to take over Brookside Municipal Golf Course, thereby settling an intense bidding war that pitted a small business against a large corporation.
With Mayor Bill Bogaard casting the deciding vote during Tuesday's meeting, city directors voted 4 to 3 in favor of Los Angeles-based American Golf, a nationwide corporation that manages 65 courses. The loser, National Golf and Tennis Inc. of La Verne, manages two courses in Southern California.
An already charged bidding war between the companies escalated last week when National President James Duffin, in a last-minute move, increased his proposal of guaranteed revenues for the city over a 10-year period to $6.4 million from $5 million, bettering American's bid of about $6 million.
In a lengthy and emotional hearing, city directors split on the issue of awarding negotiations to a smaller firm "that will try harder" or going with American Golf, a much larger company with a "proven track record" owned by Lynn Schackleford, former UCLA basketball star and Lakers television sportscaster.
"There is no greater incentive to a small business than to take our golf course and make it into a Class A operation," said Director Loretta Thompson-Glickman in casting her vote for National.
Earlier in the hearing, Glickman had grown irritated over the apparent lack of minority employees at American when Schackleford introduced some of the personnel scheduled to work at the course.
"I sort of wish you hadn't done that," Glickman, who is black, said angrily. "Look at them--all male, all white. . . . You know you've got a black female sitting up here. You better bring in some people who represent the community."
An American spokesman assured Glickman that the company employs blacks.
Directors Rick Cole, Jess Hughston and Glickman voted for National. Directors Bill Thomson, Jo Heckman, John Crowley and Bogaard voted for American.
The board will soon open three weeks of negotiations with American, debating such matters as capital improvements, green fees and senior citizen discounts. Earlier this year, the board voted to turn the course over to a private management firm in the hope of making it a profitable operation. The course lost an estimated $190,000 last year.
Thomson, echoing the statements of Heckman, Crowley and Bogaard, said negotiations should be held with American because "I still do not think that National is the better company. American is financially the stronger company. They are responsive, their courses are well maintained. The money is important and we are making a financial decision."
Hughston seemed most in favor of the smaller company, making an impassioned and angry speech near the closing of the hearing in which he charged that the bidding process gave an unfair advantage to American.
"We have gone through a process that is most unusual for this board. It is an issue of a huge corporation versus a small entrepreneur. How (is American) going to account for what the person behind the counter is doing?" he asked, his voice rising.
"I don't think the system was fishy or corrupt," he added. "It was just unfair. And that is not right for us to do."
Although it has lost, for now, what is the final bidding round, National still has an outside chance. Board members said they would deal with National if negotiations with American prove unsuccessful.