The town has broken off negotiations for a legal settlement with Johnson Golf Inc. and will proceed to trial, Duxbury selectmen announced Monday.
The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to end negotiations with the former manager of the town-owned North Hill golf course, Johnson Golf, Inc. of Weston and pursue litigation against that company.
The board has met in closed-door sessions with attorneys multiple times over the past three years to discuss a possible settlement with Johnson Golf. Selectmen said they ended negotiations because they don’t feel they are getting anywhere.
“We have begun to feel that any of the negotiations we have had with Johnson Golf have gone to the extremes, and we have not gotten a reasonable offer from them, so we are pursuing litigation.” said Selectman David Madigan. “We believe that the liability to the town is limited to the losses for a year and a half related to the golf course which are somewhere in the order of $150,000 plus interest.”
Madigan and Selectman Shawn Dahlen voted to end negotiations during the board’s weekly open meeting. Selectmen Chairman Ted Flynn was not present.
Selectmen said this decision was made initially in a closed-door session last Wednesday but they wanted the public to know that negotiations were over.
Madigan said the litigation will be paid for by the town’s insurance company, Massachusetts Inter-local Insurance Association, or MIIA, the non-profit insurance arm of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. The insurance company attorney, Leonard Kesten, will represent Duxbury in the lawsuit.
“We no longer have a town counsel assigned to the case other than to review the relationship with the insurance company so that it isn’t placing undue financial burden on the town,” said Madigan.
Doug Johnson, who managed the nine-hole golf course on Merry Avenue. for 15 years, sued the town in 2008 after losing the management contract to Calm Golf of Rockland. Johnson challenged the bidding process and claimed that the town's choice was unqualified and that the town conspired against him. Johnson was successful in seeking an injunction against the town in Middlesex County court, which allowed him to remain in control of North Hill under the terms of his last contract until 2011. That is when a Superior Court justice overturned the 2010 injunction and ordered Johnson Golf Management to return full control of the course to the town and vacate the premises. The town then put the contract out to bid twice in 2011, and the second time, it awarded a five-year management contract to Pilgrim Golf LLC of Duxbury, which has been managing the course since.
Madigan and Dahlen also voted to recommend indefinite postponement of special Town Meeting Article 18, which would have funded a settlement with Johnson Golf.
“I think our attempt was to come up with a reasonable settlement. We left this on the warrant in hopes that something would come up but to no avail,” said Dahlen.
The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial next month in Middlesex Superior Court.