Revenue Authority, Golf Academy Part Ways
Former board member calls on his colleagues to resign after approving deal with Bill Madonna Golf Academy.
A controversial contract between the Baltimore County Revenue Authority and a Florida-based golf pro has been cancelled less than a year after it began.
The termination of the contract less than a year after it was approved led one former board member—Les Pittler—to call for the resignation of several of his former colleagues.
Donald Hutchinson, chairman of the authority's five-member board, said he negotiated a buyout of the contract. Bill Madonna will receive $25,000 and the right to teach at the authority's Greystone course for three consecutive weeks later this year in return for an early termination of the four-year agreement.
"This is not a reflection of our unhappiness with the quality of the academy and the quality of the teaching," said Hutchinson. "This had to do with a decision that I made, with the board's agreement, that we needed to have a fresh start for our new chief executive."
Hutchinson said the buyout and agreement to allow Madonna the ability to teach for three additional weeks this year was made “because it will be much more difficult for him to find another place on the East Coast to establish an academy this season.”
Madonna was hired in 2011 by then-authority Chief Executive William "Lynnie" Cook.
Cook resigned in February as the authority and its board faced increased scrutiny by state legislators who were concerned about ethics violations, including no-bid contracts with companies owned by people who had personal relationships with authority officials.
Ken Mills, who served as chief executive from 1985 to 1993, was hired to succeed Cook.
Fidelity Sports Group, which represents Madonna, did not respond to requests for comment.
But Pittler, a former board member who was the only dissenting vote on the contract, said ending the contract with Madonna isn’t enough.
“I believe anyone who approved this contract should step down from the board,” said Pittler, who in March retired from the board position he held for 14 years.
Pittler complained that the contract was pushed through without the benefit of a bidding process.
There were also concerns about the relationship between Madonna and Cook.
Pittler also complained that the board voted for the agreement without having been provided a copy of the contract—a document he said was lopsided in favor of Madonna.
“This contract was criticized vehemently by me when it was entered into because the board never saw the contract before it approved it,” Pittler said. “We never vetted the contract or the (Madonna) organization.”
Patch reported last year that the contract contained a number of provisions that favored Madonna over the authority.
The deal with Madonna gave him exclusive rights to teach at Fox Hollow and paid him more than 80 percent of the revenue.
Golf pros already working for the authority and were teaching there were required to stop giving private lessons and could only work for Madonna. Under the contract, Madonna received up to 80 percent of their fees.
Madonna was also allowed to compete with the golf course’s pro shop and could sell a brand of golf equipment directly to his students—splitting the proceeds 50-50 with the authority after Madonna’s expenses.
Finally, the authority was required to pay nearly $23,000 to Madonna in the first 19 months of the deal. This includes a one-time $5,000 travel stipend as well as an agreement to spend a minimum of $5,000 annually on marketing and about $8,500 in equipment purchases.
When Pittler raised concerns about the contract, another board member asked him to stop the questions.
Hutchinson said the approval of the contract was the right thing to do at the time.
Hutchinson said the plan now is to see if the authority can begin a program of its own using available staff.
“I think, from the board’s perspective, we made the right call based on the advice of our leadership, primarily Lynnie Cook,” Hutchinson said, adding that he also believes that “the board would take a closer look at contracts in the future.”