The general manager of Rye Golf Club has been put on a 30-day administrative leave as the Police Department investigates his conduct, city officials announced Wednesday night.
Scott Yandrasevich, a Rye employee who has managed the city-owned Whitby Castle and golf course for the last decade, has been criticized over a conflict of interest in recent weeks because of his ties to the private employment agency he hired to provide much of the facility’s staff. As reported in The Journal News Wednesday, he acknowledged that the company he hired, RM Staffing & Events, has paid him as a consultant on other business deals and also employs his wife.
Club members questioned how he could represent their interests before a company for which he works. They raised questions about $2.2 million worth of payments to RM over the last two years showing high amounts of overtime pay, along with the club’s handling of tip money left on credit cards. (Credit-card tips to servers actually go to the club, to offset labor costs, according to Yandrasevich.) City Manager Scott Pickup said the police probe involves “other aspects” beyond what has been discussed publicly. The police have notified the District Attorney’s Bureau of Public Integrity.
The announcement came during a city council meeting where dozens of people were preparing to air complaints about the golf club. They were also angered by City Manager Scott Pickup’s treatment of the matter. Pickup, who supervises the club manager, said during an Oct. 3 golf commission meeting that Yandrasevich’s business dealings were “above board” and dismissed questions over a conflict of interest. He later changed course, saying there were serious issues to be addressed. He told The Journal News that the earlier stance was in reaction to a “mob mentality” at the Oct. 3 meeting, noting that some people there were drinking.
Several speakers said they were glad to see an investigation, but wanted the city manager to have no role in it. Pickup had hired the Reda Romano & Co. accounting firm in Rye Brook to audit the club’s finances. “I think there’s a credibility issue here as far as having the city manager touching any part of this,” said Mack Cunningham, a former council member.
Leon Sculti, a club member who has sought and posted records of RM’s invoices online, protested a culture of “contempt” towards the people of Rye. Linda Lefkowitz, who chaired the club’s advisory board many years ago, lamented that, “From what I have read and heard, there’s no accountability or transparency, and possibly a minimum of honesty.”
In response, Councilwoman Catherine Parker agreed that oversight, trust and mutual respect were lacking. Councilman Joe Sack made a motion to have the council, not the city manager, take the lead on any investigation into the club’s books. The council agreed, in a 6-0 vote (Councilman Peter Jovanovich was absent) and directed that the recently-begun audit be suspended.
Many questions remain about the club’s current and future finances. The club commission, along with Yandrasevich, met Tuesday night to consider a 2013 budget. It discussed a plan that would keep dues the same, close Whitby Castle in January and February, and shift most of the labor from temp agency workers to city-employed, seasonal workers, who are allowed to work up to 10 months out of the year.
Attendees pressed for breakdowns of the numbers, and urged the commission not to approve any budget until details are released and questions are answered. The commission took no action. The club is run through a separate city fund, sustained entirely through membership dues and fees.