Advertisement
Share

La Jolla Tennis Club’s $20,000 contract for manager search triggers ‘sticker shock’ with some members

The La Jolla Tennis Club is a public facility at 7632 Draper Ave.
The La Jolla Tennis Club is a public facility at 7632 Draper Ave.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The club is looking for its third manager in the past year.

The La Jolla Tennis Club is again searching for a new manager, its third in a year. And the board of directors’ decision to contract with an outside firm to find the new manager is drawing mixed reviews from club members.

Some were stunned by the $20,000 expenditure and criticized the board, saying it did not consult members before authorizing it. Others supported the board’s effort.

The board, which is responsible for running the club as a nonprofit service to the city of San Diego on city-owned courts, hosted a meeting Feb. 23 on the club grounds at 7632 Draper Ave. to collect feedback on the qualities the new manager should have. The board voted recently to spend the $20,000 to use South Carolina-based McMahon Careers to find a manager, said Tennis Club employment committee president Alex Brown.

Former manager Scott Farr stepped down April 30 after 15 years after declining a pay cut. Soon after, the board hired Vic Kramitz to manage the club. However, at the end of 2021, the board learned that Kramitz “was paying himself overtime while also taking nearly a full day off work a week,” Brown said. “We had an ongoing negotiation with him that included signing a release agreement and confidentiality clause. He decided not to sign that agreement, so we can be clear about why that relationship ended.”

Kramitz declined to comment on the reasons for his departure but said he’s “immensely grateful for his time at the La Jolla Tennis Club” and feels that he “left things better” than when he arrived.

For this manager search, “the club’s financial position is much clearer and very strong,” Brown said. In the 10 months since Farr’s departure, the club’s operational revenue has increased 1,500 percent, she said.

Therefore, Brown said, the board has the ability to fund the search agency contract and about $110,000 in salary for the new manager.

“We’re looking for a manager who is capable of leading all [current and planned] improvements, bolstering the tennis programs and handling the day-to-day duties of the office,” Brown said. “We know the [$20,000] cost has caused some sticker shock, but the board decided the expertise and the reach into the tennis community that McMahon has was worth the cost.”

If the new manager doesn’t last a year, the Tennis Club will get another search for free, Brown said.

A job description will be drafted in coming months, after which the search will begin.

Brown said those who would like to apply can do so through McMahon. “Just because we are using a search firm doesn’t mean candidates that have reached out to us can’t apply,” she added.

Brown said the hope is to “find the best candidate in San Diego” but that the club would accept a candidate from outside the area. The board will be involved as the list of candidates is whittled down and will consider taking input from the club’s 700 members regarding a final selection, she said.

Much of the feedback on the manager’s desired qualities centered on whether the person also should be a tennis coach. Some said allowing the manager to teach would unfairly compete with those who rent courts to offer private instruction. Given that the board terminated the contracts of some coaches last year, some speakers said bringing in someone who would teach in addition to managing the club would “raise some issues.”

Others said local coaches who are already familiar with the courts would make an ideal manager.

However, the conversation soon shifted to how the board communicated with club membership before approving the contract with McMahon.

The board voted in January to terminate the contract with Kramitz and proceed with a search agency. In February, the board voted to sign the contract with McMahon.

Board meetings are open to club members, but the topics to be discussed are not listed on the agenda. The board noted that anyone could have attended the meetings at which the manager issue was discussed. Opponents of the search contract responded that they would have attended had they known.

Board member Iraj Aalam, who opposed hiring a search firm, said: “I pleaded with the [board] to get the membership involved before you sign it. Senior members have much deeper knowledge about tennis, but the board refused. I just want the board to be transparent.”

Club member Cristian Popescu said “this was a major decision. You are supposed to ask about our interest. You should have consulted with the members before making this decision.”

Acting President Terri Bourne responded: “Did the board come to you when we put in the new lights for $35,000?” (The lights were replaced after neighbors complained that the former ones shined out rather than down, affecting the views from surrounding homes.)

Others said the board has the authority to spend the money as it sees fit, and they applauded the job it is doing. ◆