Fired pool staffing company sues city

By LIZ BUTTON

After being fired from the Rye Golf Club five weeks before the end of the summer season, pool management company American Leisure is suing the city for money it claims it is contractually owed. 

American Leisure, the pool staffing company fired from Rye Golf Club for poor performance the city argued amounted to a breach of contract, is suing the city for more than $42,000. American Leisure claims the city did not follow proper termination procedures as stipulated in its contract. File photo

American Leisure, the pool staffing company fired from Rye Golf Club for poor performance the city argued amounted to a breach of contract, is suing the city for more than $42,000. American Leisure claims the city did not follow proper termination procedures as stipulated in its contract. File photo

Through the summer, reports of poor filtration, insufficient lifeguard staffing, murky water and chlorine deficiency from pool users at the club ultimately led to the company’s firing by the city on Aug. 4.

Now American Leisure is suing for $42,239.96—the remainder, plus interest, of what they say they are owed had they worked the entire seasonalleging the city did not follow proper termination procedures as stipulated in their contract.

City Manager Scott Pickup hired American Leisure Activities of New York City, Inc. on May 10 of this year to work the entire summer at the city-owned golf club and pool for $169,413. The contract included seven lifeguards, a certified pool operator and an extra floater lifeguard for use at peak times.

American Leisure filed a notice of claim against the city on Aug. 6, alleging breach of contract after their lifeguard staff showed up to work on Aug. 5 only to find they had been replaced by another pool company. In answer, the city filed  a counterclaim on Dec. 2.

According to City Attorney Kristen Wilson’s answering suit, American Leisure breached its contract with the city through “failure to provide an adequate number of lifeguards at certain times pursuant to the contract,” resulting in 32.5 pool hours unstaffed by lifeguards.

The city also claims the pool company breached its contract when it failed to provide a “capable certified pool operator,” circumstances that made it necessary for the city to pay for its own certified pool operator, facilities manager Gary Galante, as a result of the company’s failure to properly perform its job functions.

While Pickup said the city met with higher-ups at the company on multiple occasions and discussed very specifically what was going wrong, American Leisure CEO Steve Kass said the company was not given due notice about any alleged contractual breaches before being sent a letter of termination from the city.

“[The city was] under contract and, even if they did send us a letter, that’s not what the contract called for; there were provisions in the contract that had a procedure,” Kass said. “They didn’t tell us, they didn’t write to us, didn’t inform us, didn’t complain to us.”

According to American Leisure’s contract, the city has the right to terminate the contract by giving the company notice describing the alleged breach. The contract goes on to state that American Leisure then has 10 days to address, or begin to address, the issue. According to the contract, the company also has the alternate option to take up to seven days to dispute the city’s claim and to request arbitration.

Discussions of the company’s alleged poor performance, at least among city factions, actually began in late July. At a Rye Golf Club Commission meeting on July 24, Galante announced the city was in talks with a new company, United Fitness Sports and Pools, to take over pool operations. Then, on July 29, interim golf club manager Jim LoPolito signed a contract with United Fitness Sports and Pools to cover the rest of the pool season for $77,653, which ran through Labor Day weekend. Wilson said she had discussed termination with American Leisure’s attorney as early as Aug. 1, and then sent a letter to the company’s attorney on Aug, 4 informing them that their contract had been terminated and that they should not send employees to work the following day.

However, lifeguards were told by American Leisure to continue to report to their posts at the Rye club through Sunday afternoon, Aug. 4 and showed up to work on the morning of Aug. 5, the same day United Fitness’s contract went into effect, causing Rye Police to escort employees of American Leisure from the golf club grounds.

In the termination letter sent to American Leisure’s lawyer on Aug. 4. the city indicated what was sent was merely a copy of a letter that had been sent to the staffing company earlier. Kass, however, disputed those claims stating his company never received any such letter.

Kass said that, in the 30 years of the company’s existence, nothing so litigious has ever taken place in any of the small towns where it does business. American Leisure prides itself as a company on being very community-oriented, Kass said, and every summer, the company employs close to 1,000 workers, mostly young people. Through the city’s actions this summer, eight young people unfairly lost their jobs, according to Kass.

Now that the city is beginning again with the process of choosing a pool company for the upcoming season, some have voiced skepticism that the same fate will befall the pool again.

The decision on what will be included in a request for proposals for pool staffing must be made by January, Pickup said, before it is too late and people have already settled on their summer jobs. Pickup said the club is looking to hire at the same staffing levels this year, seven to eight guards and a certified pool operator since, he said, the failure of American Leisure “was a staffing contract performance question.” The problems at the pool this season were not, he said, related to whether the number of lifeguards the city contracted for in the first place was enough to run the pool without incident.

Incoming golf commissioner Leon Sculti said there is no way he would stand for it if the commission looks for the same level of staffing for next season since the staff called for in the original contract was meager.

Sculti cited the July 24 commission meeting, when Galante announced the original American Leisure pool contract of seven lifeguards, one floater and a certified pool operator was woefully insufficient from the get-go, almost barebones, but Pickup told him he could not hire more guards since the club needed to conserve money.

Sculti contends that the response to American Leisure’s complaint filed in August, in which the city stated the company did not provide enough lifeguards, was unfair. The city did not contract for enough guards in the first place in the case of absences or other unexpected contingencies, he said.

Unlike Pickup’s view, in which the only issue with American Leisure was poor performance, Sculti said, “The RFP was an issue. The amount of lifeguards that we contracted for was an issue.”

Galante could not be reached for comment at press time.

Contact: liz@hometwn.com

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About Liz Button

Liz Button is a staff reporter for Hometown Media Group’s The Rye Sound Shore Review. Previously, she covered Bedford and Mount Kisco for The Daily Voice, an Internet-based, hyperlocal publication. She’s also written for Patch in her hometown of Trumbull, Conn., as a freelance reporter and fill-in editor. Preceding her time there, she worked in publishing in New York City. She is a 2008 graduate of Bowdoin College with a degree in English. Reach Liz at 914-653-1000 x20 or liz@hometwn.com; follow her on Twitter @ryesoundshore.