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Golf dustup leads to recall talk

by Christine Ina Casillas

What started out as a dispute at a golf course could swing into a recall election for an Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District board member.

An altercation between board director J. Halburnt and a Denver resident at the Eagle-Vail golf course caused enough alarm at the beginning of the month for the metro district’s board to ask Halburnt for his resignation.

“I got angry on the golf course,” Halburnt said. “And I’m being punished for it by being suspended from playing for the rest of the season.”

The incident that led to the board’s request of his resignation started on the 18th fairway around 5 p.m. Aug. 4.

“On this particular day, the pace of play was extremely slow,” Halburnt said. “And this guy shoots a ball inches from my head. Yes, I was a little upset.”

Denver resident David Frans and his 13-year-old daughter ventured to the golf course for the day to play a little golf.

Frans teed off on the 18th hole, veering his drive to the left because of carts moving ahead of him. Halburnt moved from the trees, flailing his arms in the air and yelling at him, Frans said in a written response about the incident.

“I spouted off for about 10 minutes about how mad I was about it. I’m not going to deny I was a little upset. I’m only human,” Halburnt said. “The ball came within inches of my head.”

But the yelling didn’t stop at the 18th hole, Halburnt, staff and other board members said.

Frans apologized for the mishap. But he was told that “you can’t golf on my golf course” again.

Still in shock about the missed ball, Halburnt said they would discuss it at the clubhouse, and he asked for Frans’ name, requesting it to report him to the director of the golf course.

Frans offered to buy him a beer to clear the air, but Halburnt refused it.

“I was upset and shocked,” Halburnt said. “(The board) immediately banned me from the golf course.”

Yet, it wasn’t the fact that he spouted off at the man but that the scene that followed potentially could have hurt the morale of the golf course and the metro district in general, said Andrew Cuomo, a member of the Eagle-Vail Metro Board.

“This isn’t the first time (Halburnt) had outbursts on the golf course,” Cuomo said. “The incident was out of control and very embarrassing for Eagle-Vail, very damaging. That’s not how a board member should treat a patron, and it shows a lack of respect for the patron. It’s a behavior that should never be shown by a director.”

Halburnt admitted that his language was a bit colorful, and that he lost his temper. But he said that resigning from the board was not an option.

“He hasn’t resigned,” Cuomo said. “And there’s the problem. A recall election is costly and time-consuming.”

None of the board members or the director of the golf course were present at the time of the incident.

“I wasn’t here that day, which is good,” said Mark Kizzire, director of golf operations for the Eagle-Vail golf course. “I don’t know what I would have done had I been here. But I know we did what we would have done to any other person by suspending his privileges to play golf for the remainder of the year.”

Similar incidents that happened on the golf course resulted in suspensions or bans from the golf course, Kizzire said.

“We’ve gone out there and asked people to leave,” he said. “I couldn’t ask (Halburnt) to leave because I’m the employee, and he’s the employer. The board took that action.”

Players can get banned from the golf course for repeated offenses by violating golf course policy, Cuomo said. Not complying with staff direction, driving with damaged carts on the course or driving carts that aren’t registered, hitting errant balls and not keeping up with the pace of playing and becoming abusive all warrant the possibility of getting suspended from playing the course.

“It’s absolutely insane what they’re trying to do here (about a recall election),” Halburnt said. “I have no intentions of resigning. The reason why I ran (for director in the first place) was to be a voice of the people. It’s not (Frans’) fault that this situation is happening. I’m paying the price for my colorful language.”

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.


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