January 14, 2023
As I previously stated, my primary reason for deciding to remain on City Council and not pursue an opportunity to join the County Legislature was to fulfill my commitment to the voters who elected me.
Many of those same voters have contacted me in recent weeks to voice their concerns over the complete lack of transparency and fiscal responsibility when it comes to the “deal” to purchase the Watertown Golf Club. As an outspoken critic of the purchase, I can see why my colleagues who support the deal would take issue with me remaining on Council and asking questions that residents have yet to get answers on.
Just last month, Council Members Ruggerio, Olney and Hickey took a vote to silence the public and prevent them from speaking about the purchase of the Watertown Golf Club. As Council Members, one of the most important things we do (if not THE most important thing we do) is listen to those we represent. Unfortunately, it seems that the only individuals these Council Members are listening to are the two developers, not the public they were elected to serve.
The Council Members are correct in stating that I was invited to several closed door meetings with the developers on this issue, one of which I would have been required to sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to attend. I declined to participate because I believe that an expenditure of this magnitude should be fully transparent and discussed in a public session. Simply put, the public has a right to know how their money is being spent.
For example—it took court proceedings to reveal that as part of the deal, $850,000 is to be paid to the owner of Ives Hill Country Club. Why are city taxpayers being forced to pay nearly $1 million to have this individual close 9 holes of a course that hasn’t been open in several years? If the Watertown Golf Club is so profitable, and owning it would be in the best interest of the City, why can’t detailed financial information be made public? Why vote to deny the public the opportunity to share their opinions on this deal? What other secret deals have been made during these private, closed door meetings? There are many questions that haven’t been answered and for me and many others, something just doesn’t add up.
In my opinion, doing due diligence, being fiscally responsible and exercising common sense would mean getting independent appraisals to determine the value of what we are purchasing. Instead, these Council Members have decided to blindly forge ahead with a purchase where the value and condition of everything has been determined by the seller.
Just yesterday a constituent sent me an article about the Pleasant Valley Country Club in Massachusetts, which has hosted 32 PGA Tour and 13 LPGA events, selling for $4.1 million (https://golfweek.usatoday.
com/2023/01/11/pleasant- valley-country-club- massachusetts-sold-4-million- dollars/). This is a historic 18 hole course where golfers like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson have played. Why would a course of that stature sell for only $700,000 more than we’re paying for the Watertown Golf Club? It just doesn’t make sense.
If my colleagues were truly sincere about fostering transparency and fiscal responsibility on the Council they wouldn’t have voted to silence residents, would have discussed the purchase publicly instead of during closed door meetings and lastly, would have done their due diligence and obtained independent appraisals to determine that they were getting a good deal for the residents they represent—instead of two wealthy developers.