Golf pros’ lawsuit against City of Madison moves on

Four former City of Madison golf pros will be able to move ahead with their lawsuit against the city following what has been called an unprecedented ruling by Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess. The city wanted the case dismissed, arguing that it was immune from litigation, but Niess’ ruling means the city will become the first municipality to be sued under the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law.

In October 2012, the City Council voted to fire the four pros and replace them with one golf pro, some assistant pros, and unionized concession workers. Former parks director Kevin Briski and Mayor Paul Soglin both supported the move.

The pros, Tom Benson of Odana Hills Golf Course, Rob Muranyi of Monona Golf Course, Mark Rechlicz of Yahara Hills, and Bill Sheer of Glenway Golf Course, claim their contracts were terminated without just cause. Each had contracts with the city, and they contend that, under their arrangements, they met the state law’s definition of “dealers.”

Niess ruled that a city doesn’t have to conduct business through dealership contracts, but if it does, it must abide by the same rules as everyone else involved in those contracts.

The pros are seeking at least $1.8 million in the case.