Avalon city officials, after months of inquiry, have accepted assurances by the all-male Tuna Club that the club does not discriminate against women.
At an Avalon City Council meeting attended by Tuna Club President Jim Martin and other club members, City Atty. Michael Jenkins told the council that letters to the city from the Tuna Club had resolved the issue.
In an interview, Jenkins said the city had requested assurances that the club “will not discriminate in their membership policies, business practices and the operation of their facilities. We asked them to affirm that that would be their policy, and they have done that, and we are satisfied.”
Jenkins said the club “has taken a position consistent with the position that we asked them to take.”
In a letter to the city March 14, Martin had said the club did not discriminate “on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin in its membership policies and practices.”
But city officials insisted that the club’s nondiscrimination policy must also extend to the operation of the facilities.
City Manager Chuck Prince said the June 9 letter “basically says uncle. It says we assure you that we don’t discriminate in our practices and in our membership. The council and city officials felt that the letter was satisfactory.”
In the letter, Martin said that although the club’s board of directors considered the use of club facilities a private matter, the board had nonetheless directed him to assure the city that the club “does not and will not discriminate in the operation and utilization of the club facilities (except for restrooms, shower rooms and changing rooms) on the basis of sex, race, religion and national origin.”
Martin was unavailable for comment.
The 91-year-old private sportfishing club, on Santa Catalina Island ocean-front property, leases its facilities from the city for $4,800 a year under a 10-year lease that expires in December.
The city’s inquiry into the club’s operation began last October, when City Councilwoman Irene Strobel asked that the city investigate whether the club restricted its membership to men and, if so, whether leasing publicly owned land to such a group would violate state and federal laws.
In a series of letters sent to the city, club officials said the club does not prohibit women from becoming members.
To join the club, prospective members must be nominated for associate membership by a current member, club officials said. To advance to active membership, an associate member must catch a fish exceeding a certain weight, depending on the kind of fish.
The club has fewer than 200 members, most of whom live on the mainland, club officials said. Some members maintain vacation homes on the island, officials said.
Strobel said the city and the club had come a long way toward resolving the issue but that she was concerned about how the city would monitor whether the club restricted women.
“I guess I’m going to have to keep trucking forward on this,” said Strobel, the only female council member. “They have agreed not to discriminate, and that’s an important step forward. I’m hoping there will be a mechanism to allow the city to monitor and enforce this nondiscrimination requirement.”
Prince said the city would investigate any reports of sexual discrimination at the club.
Club officials have notified the city of their intent to renew the lease for another 10 years, Prince said.
Prince, Mayor Hugh T. (Bud) Smith and Councilman Hal Host plan to meet with club officials within the next few months to discuss the terms of the lease, Prince said.
“We want to talk to them a little about the price, who maintains the club in case it’s damaged by a storm, and access, being open on a from time-to-time basis for community groups and citizens to use,” Prince said.
The white, New England-style building was heavily damaged in a storm in January, 1988. Club members are paying for those repairs, a member said.
Strobel said the opening of club facilities for some city-sanctioned functions would be a good-will gesture that would serve the community and the club.
“I think I’ll be satisfied when all the mechanisms are in place to make it a smooth-running operation for both the city and for them,” Strobel said.