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Ousted RedTail Golf Club manager alleges hostile work environment

Ousted golf club manager alleges retaliation, hostile work environment

The former RedTail Golf Club manager contends that he was ousted from his position after upsetting village trustees.

Lakewood officials unanimously voted to fire Terry Remke in August. He held the position at the village-owned club, 7900 Redtail Drive, for less than six months.

Remke’s attorney, Mike Leonard, asserts that the village violated its employment agreement with Remke. A demand letter sent to the village claims that trustees defamed the former club manager, and Trustee Philip Stephan wanted him fired after Remke called out Stephan’s alleged sexual harassment of a village employee.

Remke and his lawyer are demanding 24 months’ pay as severance. Remke deferred comment to Leonard.

Leonard said the village offered Remke a “token” $10,000, or two months’ pay, which he declined.

The demand letter, dated Aug. 15, was obtained by the Northwest Herald through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“[It] appears that the village’s termination of Mr. Remke may be based, at least in part, upon his opposition to Village Trustee Phil Stephan’s sexual harassment of other village employees,” the letter reads. “In any event, at this stage, Mr. Remke would still appear to possess enough facts to support the basis for filing a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and/or the federal [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission].”

Stephan strongly denied Remke’s allegations.

“Terry Remke is a habitual liar,” Stephan said. “We’ve all looked at his claim. It’s outlandish. Zero merits. Ridiculous.”

Stephan said he believes a former employee might have overheard him talking about ordering a shirt for a female friend, and that the former employee told Remke he said something inappropriate.

“Ask any trustee. We’re like, ‘This is ridiculous,’ ” Stephan said. “I’m friends with these people. ... I have a family like everybody else.”

Stephan said he never acted inappropriately.

“This whole sexual harassment thing is because I ordered a large-size shirt for an employee that wanted a large-size shirt,” he said. “That’s about as off the wall of sexual harassment as you can get. ... We’re at a meeting for a RedTail event, it was our grand opening, we had people wanting to come in there, and one of the women who wanted to work said, ‘Make sure you get me a large shirt. I want a loose-fitting shirt.’”

Stephan said the woman who received the shirt was not upset by anything.

Village attorney Michael Smoron expressed similar sentiments.

“Phil would be the first to tell you that one, even the person who ordered the shirt said that isn’t sexual harassment,” Smoron said. “That’s it. That’s the allegation as I understand it. ... The village has never found any evidence whatsoever that there was any harassment by the trustee in question.”

Leonard said, “We don’t send out false letters, so obviously we stand by everything that we say.”

The letter also said, “Village trustees, amongst others, disparaged and defamed Mr. Remke – including referring to him as a ‘drunk’ and a ‘danger’ to others, and in connection therewith urged his termination.”

Smoron said the village disputes that claim, adding that he believes Remke would not be able to identify who he alleges defamed him.

“Terry never complained about that statement that he made in the letter prior to his no longer being associated with the village. ... I have never heard anyone on the Village Board say that about Terry,” Smoron said.

Stephan said Remke mismanaged funds and failed in his leadership position.

“We can’t run a golf course on lies,” he said.

Village President J. Carl Davis said he could not comment at length on the matter, but he said he does not believe Remke was fired for the reasons he listed in his demand letter.

“We’ll let it play out in litigation,” Leonard said, adding that it was “very odd” and “strange” for the village to provide the Northwest Herald the letter.

A series of complaints

During his employment with the village, Remke faced a series of complaints from chief administrative officer Jeannine Smith, according to records obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request for any village documents regarding disciplinary action against Remke.

Remke was hired by Smith.

The partially redacted records shed light on what Smith, who was Remke’s supervisor, called “unsatisfactory performance” by the golf club manager. Remke’s attorney disputes her claims.

In July, Smith sent Remke a memo outlining several instances of “unsatisfactory performance of assigned work” that created or contributed to “an unsafe condition on village premises.”

Among the problems in the memo are poor communication with Smith, delayed repairs, food service preparation, inaccurate rates on the club’s website, crude remarks and poor customer service.

In the records, Remke promised to improve his performance and meet deadlines.

Resignation from Lisle club

Remke, a former Lisle golf professional, was charged in 2008 with stealing more than $10,000 from the Lisle Park District. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of Class B misdemeanor theft for unauthorized control of property not exceeding $300, and was placed on two years of probation, according to DuPage County court documents.

Remke worked at the golf course owned by the Lisle Park District for 14 years and resigned as superintendent of the club in May 2007.

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