OCTOBER 2, 2012, RYE NY - An informed and inquisitive crowd of Rye Golf Club members and citizens showed up to a 3 hour-long Rye Golf Club Commission meeting on the eve of Sept. 27th. Members came looking for answers on the proposed 2013 budget and the discovery of an enormous amount of overtime being charged to Rye Golf Club–by a staffing company that also employs the club's general manager, Scott Yandrasevich, and his wife. [Download the staffing invoices here]
FINANCE COMMITTEE FAILS MEMBERS, AGAIN
The meeting began with attendees patiently listening to an hour-plus long presentation from Patrick Dooley of the Rye Golf Club Finance Committee, which attempted to explain the complexities of tens-of-thousands of hours in overtime billing that the members of that board (which also includes Mr. Danny Devito and Mr. Frank Adimari) didn't even know existed until it was brought to their attention two weeks ago [that video can be seen here].
Much to the crowd's chagrin, the Finance Committee (l.) failed to shed light on–or even acknowledge– the general manager's financial relationship with a staffing company that has billed the club over $2.2 million dollars in the last 18 months alone, unchecked. The revelations of that relationship were recently disclosed by the Rye Sound Shore Review.
PUBLIC DRAGS GM'S CONFLICT OF INTEREST TO LIGHT
Although Mr. Yandrasevich said he was told not to discuss it, public pressure made the club's general manager admit that he, in fact, works for RM Staffing–the company at the center of the controversy–as consultant at the highest level.
It was learned–despite Mr. Yandrasevich's refusal to address this specific issue during the meeting–that he spear headed a deal that earned RM Staffing a contract to run the restaurant facilities at Oak Hills Golf Club in Norwalk this year.
RYE GOLF GM GOES TO WORK IN NORWALK; LANDS OAK HILLS ACCOUNT FOR RM STAFFING
The Rye Golf Club GM–who is paid $107,000/year with excellent benefits–and lives in a handsome million-dollar-plus home on the club's golf course year round free of charge–visited and met with the chairman of the Oak Hills Park Authority and the golf club's executive director (l.) as a representative of RM Staffing this spring. He toured the facilities and authored the proposal in which RM Staffing agreed to pay Oak Hills $8,500 per month (with a 3% rent increase in ensuing years) to run the club's restaurant. Details of which have been reported in the Norwalk press.
It is obvious from the responsibilities he took on: touring the facilities, engaging with club executives, and actually being the architect of the proposal itself, that Mr. Yandrasevich plays a key role for RM Staffing when he is not playing his part as RGC's GM. Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Head of New Business Development, Director of Sales? You decide.
Mr. Yandrasevich calls himself a "consultant" for RM. He said that although he has been paid for working for RM Staffing in the past, that he received no compensation for his efforts on behalf of RM Staffing at Oak Hills.
RYE GOLF CLUB GETS SHORT END OF RM STAFFING STICK
Oak Hills got a pretty good deal. They'll generate over $100,000 in revenue from RM Staffing each year the lease is in effect, thanks to the work of Mr. Yandrasevich. On the other hand, Rye Golf Club has paid RM Staffing–under Mr. Yandrasevich's direct control, and with the city manger's full support and blessing–$2.2 million dollars in labor costs over the last 18 months–including over $400,000 in overtime.
DEFICITS & DUES INCREASE, MEMBERSHIP FALLS
In the meantime, Whitby Castle has lost money consistently–over $1.8 million in total since the city took control of it in 2007. Mr. Yandrasevich–who wrote a 60 page thesis Controlling Labor Costs in Restaurant Management in 2011–has told the commission and members, year after year, that the only way to bridge the deficit gap is to raise dues. But, membership dues have been raised 22% in the last five years already, causing many families to leave RGC, where membership has declined 15% since a peak year of 2008.
FOCUS SHIFTS FROM MEMBERS TO RM STAFFING
Mr. Yandrasevich opened the 9/12 budget meeting by saying, "the reason that we have had issues, is purely a membership number game... If we had the same membership numbers that we had in '08, we probably wouldn't be having any conversations at all or difficulties, so it is all about membership." He has not repeated that line of rationale since his ties to RM Staffing have become the subject of public scrutiny.
GM ADMITS HIS WIFE ALSO WORKS FOR STAFFING COMPANY
Mr. Yandrasevich was also made to confirm that his wife works for RM Staffing as well–in a salaried position, he said. At which point which Mr. Yandrasevich–who earlier claimed he made "under $1,000" working for RM Staffing–was asked to disclose his tax returns by members of the audience. Mr. Yandrasevich did not respond to that request.
OVERTIME CHARGES TRACED BACK TO JANUARY 2008
RM Staffing & Events, has now billed RGC more than 11,000 hours of overtime since 2011. It is impossible to get a true handle on the complete scope of RM Staffing's billing to RGC as City Manager Pickup has refused to release any more information which was FOIL'd for back in July.
The city manager is the chief records access officer for the city, in charge of assuring compliance with public access to public records–or lack thereof. A lone invoice, however, obtained by LD10580 from 2008, shows RM Staffing billed the club over 300 hours of overtime for one two-week period in January of that year. Meaning the length, depth, and costs of any possible waste, fraud or abuse goes back years and is most likely not insignificant.
RM STAFFERS GIVEN WAGE INCREASES UP TO 140%
During the meeting, it was also pointed out to the Finance Committee– who were again caught tongue tied–that the RM Staffing invoicing they now had in their possession clearly showed that some employees received year to year raises of 25%, 50% and even 140%.
For example, one worker, who made a rate of $15/hr–or $27/hr–depending on what job she performed in 2011–received an hourly wage increase to $36/hr in 2012. That is an hourly wage increase of 140% above the first rate and 33% above the second rate. Another worker had her hourly rate raised from $34/hr last year to $44/hr this year (a 29% increase).
All in all, eleven RM Staffers received hourly wage increases of 8%-140% from 2011 to 2012, with Mr. Yandrasevich's knowledge and approval. Not a small fact when considering that overtime billed by RM Staffing this year is down when compared to last year, but overall billings are up.
TESTY CITY MANAGER JUMPS IN DEEP END OF POOL
A testy looking Scott Pickup, who barked at an older gentleman to "finish your question so I can answer", told club-goers that their GM has no conflict of interest, that practices like this are not uncommon in the city of Rye. That everything was above board, and that the city attorney, Kristen Wilson, had previously vetted the situation herself and found nothing wrong. The city manager, who worked an unfriendly room all night, did not say when that vetting took place or with whom Ms. Wilson visited or spoke with in order to make her determination.
Mr. Pickup also added that even though he doesn't know exactly what Mr. Yandrasevich does for RM Staffing, he finds nothing improper or extraordinary about it.
As the video attests, flabbergasted attendees disagreed.
OWNER OF RM STAFFING HAS MARKETING COMPANY THAT'S WORKED & BILLED RYE GOLF CLUB FOR YEARS
The city manager was later challenged to finally release the public documents that were requested through NYS Freedom of Information Act over two months ago–including payroll, proposals, invoices, purchase orders, schedules, etc. According to FOIL law the city has a total of 25 days to lawfully respond to a request.
Some of the information sought was on a company called Studio Y, a graphic design firm that, it's believed, RGC has used for marketing and print work for years–designing and billing RGC for logos, web sites, brochures, business cards and more. The owner of Studio Y, just so happens to be the same person who owns RM Staffing and Events, and the two companies share an office at 4 Nursery Lane in Rye.
LD10580 has learned that the domain name RYEGRILLINGCO.COM, which is associated with the events and catering arm of the Whitby Castle operations is registered to the owner of Studio Y, or, RM Staffing. RM Staffing also offers catering services directly to the general public, meaning a direct competitor of RGC's catering service controls some facet of RGC's on-line catering presence.
FOIL requests to receive RGC's catering proposals and invoices for the past few years have simply been ignored by the city manager as well.
GM OFFERS TO CUT SERVICES TO THE BONE FOR 2013
The club's GM offered to cut services "to the bone" and to no longer use RM Staffing "moving forward" in an effort to trim the budget. An unwelcomed move that seemed to penalize the members as a solution to a problem they did not cause. The vote on the 2013 budget, which ignited the uprising, was postponed on the night of the 12th.
With questions continue to swirl regarding RGC's financial stability and the city's lack of transparency regarding the GM's financial and operational ties to RM Staffing & Events, the city manager set a deadline of only a few days for the commission to pass a budget.
CITY COUNCIL MEETING LOOMS
In the meantime, RGC City Council liaison, Joe Sack, is still looking for the information from the city that started the firestorm. Information he asked the city manager for months ago, only to be ignored. Mr. Sack has gone public with his struggle to uncover the facts–a struggle the members of Rye Golf Club are beginning to understand well. And one they are not willing to pay any more dues for.
The next city council meeting is Wednesday, October 10th–by all accounts from the growing ranks of concerned members, that's where this thing is heading next.