A year and a half ago, Palm Coast government hired golf pro Tim Spangler to be the new general manager at the city-owned Palm Harbor Golf Club. He was the fourth general manager in seven years at what until then had been a money-losing operation on the city.
That March the city decided to take over management of the club from the private company that had been running it. The club became a division of the city’s parks and recreation department. It went through a make-over that included a reinvented restaurant under new management. The club is still losing money, but not as much as before: Spending exceeded revenue by $455,000 in the 12 months to September 2017, but the deficit was more than halved, to $229,500, in the year ending last September.
But Spangler, a popular pro at Palm Harbor, was fired in February after an internal investigation uncovered three instances of theft and a related policy violation, according to documents obtained by FlaglerLive. The city found that Spangler was allegedly pocketing money directly rather than depositing it in city coffers.
The investigation was triggered by a complaint the city received through its whistle-blower hotline. Interim Manager Beau Falgout said the city receives numerous such tips and investigates every one of them. Most prove groundless. Some do not. Spangler’s was one of those.
According to the documents, Spangler on three occasions accepted checks made out to him personally for the enrollment of children in Palm Harbor’s summer golf camp. The amounts totaled $485.
“You indicated that you cashed the checks made out to you and then wrote checks from your personal account to the City as a reimbursement,” Parks and Recreation Director Alex Boyer wrote Spangler on Feb. 12. “However, those checks were never received in Finance and according to you, never cleared your personal account.”
Boyer last summer had become aware of Spangler receiving personal checks made out to him rather than to the city, and had spoken with him about it. “At no time during that conversation did you mention that you either had checks in your possession, nor did you mention that at some point you had cashed checks and then paid the City back,” Boyer wrote him. “It would be illogical to believe that after that phone call, you would accept checks written to you.”
Palm Coast Human Resources Director Wendy Cullen placed Spangler on paid administrative leave on Feb. 1, pending the outcome of the internal investigation “into potential financial irregularities” at the club. She informed him he was being considered for termination on Feb. 7, after the city learned that Spangler violated city policies while on leave. “On the date I place[d] you on administrative leave,” Cullen wrote him, “I cautioned you to not discuss the investigation with anyone. However, it has been reported that you have contacted numerous employees of the golf course and in at least one (1) instance, asked an employee to not be truthful with the investigative team.”
Cullen recommended termination. Spangler had a hearing before Boyer. “Tim,” Boyer wrote him on Feb. 12, “I am sure you must understand my perspective. The facts are clear that you did accept checks written to you for City programs. You admitted to cashing said checks. That, on the face, is enough to warrant the disciplinary action proposed. You then contacted employees of the golf course, while the investigation continues. I, therefore, have no choice but to uphold the recommended disciplinary action, the termination of your employment.”
Spangler appealed the decision to Interim Manager Beau Falgout. “I believe the grounds for selection of theft dismissal were unfair,” he wrote on Feb. 15. Falgout on Feb. 19 upheld the decision to fire him.
Spangler had been a golf pro for two decades before taking the post at Palm Harbor Golf Club, including as Director of Golf at Plantation Bay Golf & Country Club from 2014 to 2016 and managing golf courses in Jacksonville previously. “Attention to detail is important to me, and I give my word that the golf course will offer a very high level of customer service,” he said at the time of his hiring in Palm Coast.
“City administration is disappointed, obviously,” Cindi Lane, the city’s spokesperson, said today in an email. “The City has many policies to safeguard monies received for City services and programs and to properly account for all City funds. We are already reviewing how this occurred to ensure it never happens again. We take seriously our role in maintaining the public’s trust and want our residents to know we are committed to the highest accounting principles and ethical behavior. The City does not tolerate any sort of mismanagement, especially involving money, and will act swiftly any time there is an allegation of a violation of policy, unethical behavior or criminal activity.
Boyer has taken over day-to-day operations at the golf club for now. The investigation is ongoing despite Spangler’s firing. “The City is committed to maintaining the golf course as a top-notch facility and continuing to provide excellent customer service,” Lane said.
I hope the city intends to get the money he took
Why keep golf course open losing money and taxpayers having to pay?
Let the people that play golf pay for it
bill nelson says
The fact that the city shows the number of rounds of golf that it does, and still “loses” money is a travesty in itself. Do not blame one person. Find out where ALL the income from the per round charges is going, and give the tax payers a break. This is supposed to be an “enterprise” situation, but has become a miss-managed “joke”. Do an audit, and get to the bottom of it.
Sell the course
Rick G says
There must be a policy in place whereby citizens pay for such things via check made out to the City of Palm Coast or with cash and a receipt is generated. I would think that accepting checks made out to individual employees of the city would be against policy.
Example of WHY government should stick to governing, and leave the rest of the stuff to private enterprise. If a business fails, there IS a reason. Note to those who desire Socialism, they cannot even manage a golf course…………..You want them managing Your life?
Don’t blame the process. This privileged white cracker is nothing more than a common thief. Had an easy breezy job managing a public course in Nothingtown, USA, and couldn’t keep himself from lying, cheating, and stealing.
Definitely file criminal charges so that it goes on public record, and relegate this pathetic loser to the anals of minimum wage America.
I hope they plan on filing criminal charges and sue to get the money back .
Outside Looking Out says
I’ve always believed and always will… golf courses are a waste of real estate.
People are fired when they don’t do their jobs. This guy is a thief- he needs to be on probation and forced to pay restitution like any other thief.
We make out checks to Suzanne Johnston for County Taxes and not the the County. Why do we do this? Since my escrow pays property taxes to her too and I will assume that the County paid the City for the money I owe them.
I as a golfer go to that course at least 4 to 5 times a week. I go hit balls,putt, chip and play at least twice a week. It is a huge asset to the city. Maintained excellently and staff is always friendly. Now saying that who is this guy? Never met him or even seen him there. As a tax payer I was paying a ghost. On top of that he was stealing? Well he was also stealing his salary for not working. Lock him up to prove that we the taxpayers don,t stand for this. If the city lets this slide it is an embarassment to all our officials.
T Bone says
You do realize that 80-90 percent of the golf courses around the country lose money right?
Thank you Agolfer for using our court. I just called the city lately telling them how busy and successful looks like our golf course seems in this last year plus, in all seasons with the current manager Mr. Spangler. The golfers parking is full daily and I can see leagues playing.and now this catastrophic news. How come someone making over 70,000 a year can put himself in this situation stealing $485 in a check? Or was more to it? In this county like Judy above says we make our annual ad valorem check to Suzanne Johnston so looks like a common practice and I figure the funds are accounted for by the county…Our Palm Harbor golf course is a huge asset for the over thousand homes built around it and for our city east of I-95 as well as a huge sport amenity as the tennis courses originally marketed with the homes by ITT-ICDC and should remain open and available but with a much closer oversight by our city for income and expenses. One of the other issues that city needs to address in the Palm Harbor Golf is that the course maintenance paid, does not perform as required maybe more oversight is needed. I know Mr. Spangler tried hard to resolve the issue when residents around the course called over lack of proper maintenance and resolved them but that should not be the way a contracted service should be complied with. I see often the maintenance employees riding those carts and hardly stopping to trim and pick up tree debris something that they are paid for. I have also seeing last week a guy spreading some yellow granules in the practicing range while golfers were using it! Never have seeing something like that before in a golf course,,,,Aren’t they supposed to do their maintenance before or after the course opens? Now I have the feeling that without this disgraced manager things may get worse…as he used to respond to us when we called for lack of maintenance. So hopefully now Mr. Alex Boyer will reply to our calls when the golf course maintenance contractor does not do what they are paid for, as the usage of our Golf Course is a current success and we want to preserve our PHGC. By the way with the heavy usage of our golf course is hard to believe that yet is not self sufficient…
I play at Palm Harbor 2 or 3 times a week. The actions of Mr. Spangler is a complete betrayal of the golf course, the employees and the golfers. He was paid a very reasonable salary to manage the course and its employees. Instead it appeared he chose to neglect those duties and responsibilities in order to focus his energies on planning for his own misguided personal gain. Was his greed an integral part of his character and makeup? Only those who knew him and worked with him really know for sure.
As for the golf course condition and maintenance, they take their guidance and direction from the golf course general manager. They can only do as much as the manager communicates to them. Nevertheless, many of us have found the condition of the course to be quite good.
Mr. Spangler’s departure is a good thing. The employees that are left to clean up his mess will continue to do their jobs professionally and keep the place running smoothly and effectively as they have been despite and during his tenure. But the lesson to be learned here is that all employees have an accountability to do the job that they were hired to do. When they fail, or choose to fail, to meet the requirements of the job, then the employer must assume the responsibility to take the necessary action to remedy the problem as quickly as possible. I commend the city for their prompt and correct process in this matter.
Cypress Doug Brown says
The city of Palm Coast should look at themselves in the mirror since they are taking a small amount of money ($485.00) and trying to ruin Mr Spangler’s career and life.
As owner of Cypress Knoll Golf Course this type of mistake happens often so unless there is more to the story Mr Spangler should be given the benefit of the doubt.
The City should get there own records in order.
To brag that the course “only” lost $229,500 and much more before that is only half the issue.
Lots of questions about what is actually charged to the golf course should be closely examined and then let everyone decide what should be done about the course.
To have a city course spend the kind of money the city does to one up the two other courses (Pine Lakes and Cypress Knoll) is really not fair since they are using taxpayers money.
It is a city golf course and they should run it like a municipal course.
One example (and there are many more) is that they do not pay taxes like Pine Lakes and Cypress do
Only 2 1/2 % of golfers come from Bunnell at Cypress and I am sure that figure is less at Palm Harbor
since it is a further drive.
A majority of those taxes would go to the County so the non golfers in Bunnell and other parts of the County are paying for golfers to play at Palm Harbor.
Mr. Spangler is a very good Pro and is being unfairly punished.
If I did not already have the best Pro in Florida I would hire Mr Spangler.
Just because your course is a failure why don’t you hire him. Let him steal from you. Rather play mini golf than cypress. Wouldn’t step foot on your cow pasture. You have no clue what he did and not clue how to maintain a golf course.
Ex-Cypress Golfer says
I agree with Fedup….. Mr. Spangler is available for hire. Any golf course is free to contact him regarding his availablility.
When another golf course offers comments on the personnel issues of a competitor golf course without full knowledge of the circumstances, it comes across assuredly as an attempt to bad mouth the competitor.
Golfers choose to play at a golf course because they enjoy the overall experience of playing at a course that is in good condition. We don’t need to be shamed into playing because we happened to live on or near the golf course. And we don’t need to be unwelcomely solicited to make donations to the course in return for some golf perks. Any golf course that provides the golfer an enjoyable experience will get the resultant regular and frequent play without guilt or coercion.
Cypress Doug – My god man, Spangler is a proven thief and you say the city was out of line to fire him? My hope is that the city file criminal charges for restitution and that the local prosecutor files charges to incarcerate this felon. No excuses, he held a public trust and spit on it. What makes you think this cretin entitled to steal from his employers (the city taxpayers)? So, just out of curiosity how much do you think is acceptable to steal?
I have to agree with Doug Brown above and with total absence of undermining his employer decision. Innocent till proven guilty in a court of law…if so. Regarding the excellent work of Mr. Spangler I have no doubts as since he was the PHGC manager the course became a success versus a former Kemper managed course that was deserted often of players. When it comes to the current contracted maintenance I agree that mainly the course itself maybe fairly maintained but the edges around it were neglected and sure I understand how busy Mr Spangler was attracting users to the course to be sufficient in that maintenance oversight that was resolved after residents around the course let him know. A contracted maintenance should have its own oversight and comply with what is its contract other than dodging the work and lazy around. Same as we have to call the city for lack of proper work by the city maintenance crews around us here and there/
I also agree that after city took over the golf course with Manager Mr Spangler and cut its losses in half …I still wonder how come the course is still in the red and what is the city charging to the PHGC account. How much the maintenance contract, employees pay and golf carts cost and other charges are? Maybe we are to find out were those numbers in detail in our city Parks and Recreation budget!
Also those here that are always shouting to shut down our Palm Coast Golf Course or our Tennis Course that are the original amenities provided by ITT to attract us to buy our houses here…I would ask them why did you move here for then? Should have never bought in Palm Coast as these courses were here way before any of you arrived. Do you want to turn Palm Coast into a dump and have more condos that will shut our quality of life other than these enjoyable courses that promote less TV beer drinking or pot user couch potatoes prone to died younger of coronary decease, other than sport minded energetic, healthy, happy folks enjoying their rounds or hitting those rackets? I am not a golfer but sure enjoy their heavy presence in our PHGC and always cordially yield to their carts and do not mind to contribute to the course cost as I do contribute to the courses that our students use and the parks we all use. So stop bashing our golf and tennis courses because if for myself and many more we will fight to keep them open as are the amenities that give some positive distinction to Palm Coast.