Phoenix Country Club board member Mike Hayes turned a sex-segregation issue into a juvenile shouting match

The e-mail was sent to a female member of the Phoenix Country Club — and it was pointed.

"Can you stop you[r] bullshit at PCC," the e-mail demanded. "Nobody likes you and your type needs to go . . . The last thing we need is more lezzies like you down there . . .  You suck."

The recipient's "bullshit"? Complaining about the Men's Grill. For decades, the sporty central Phoenix club has kept its casual dining rooms sex-segregated. Naturally, the men get an airy bar and grill with flat-screen TVs and a patio; the women get a little nook with a salad bar.

Women can buy pricey memberships to the Phoenix Country Club, but they get called "lezzies" and "feminazis" if they complain about its Men's Grill.
Jay Bennett
Women can buy pricey memberships to the Phoenix Country Club, but they get called "lezzies" and "feminazis" if they complain about its Men's Grill.

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Phoenix Country Club

2901 N. Seventh St.
Phoenix, AZ 85014

Category: Sports and Recreation

Region: Central Phoenix

All this might have been uncontroversial in 1958. But in 2007, a pair of longtime members, Logan and Barbara Van Sittert, filed a formal complaint with the state attorney general — and a (hardly) civil war has been waged by the membership ever since. Logan Van Sittert found his locker vandalized. Graffiti calling Barbara a bitch appeared on the golf course. One of the club's best golfers, a lawyer named Rusty Brown, was reprimanded by the club after he criticized the segregated grills at a luncheon sponsored by the Arizona Women Lawyers Association.

And then came the e-mails.

No surprise, the writer did not sign his name. He was using a gmail account, apparently established solely for the purpose of the harassment. In the address line, he gave his name as "Kick the Bastards Out."

Kick the Bastards Out was a busy little bee this spring. He sent e-mails to several female critics of the Men's Grill. He also fired off e-mails warning critical club members like Rusty Brown that their personal information would be posted on Web sites around town — and then did so, posting two members' phone numbers on backpage.com, the classified advertising site controlled by New Times.

He titled the post "femi natzis . . . HERE IN PHOENIX."

Lock up your wife and daughter! The femi natzis are here!

In the rarefied world of the Phoenix Country Club, it was scandalous stuff. The club's members are physicians, political consultants, and top lawyers at the big firms. (Barry Goldwater himself used to be president.) They are not, generally, angry ditto-heads with a third-grade mastery of spelling.

The club's board of directors insisted that it was powerless to stop the harassment.

When one of the victims complained, then-board president William Maledon — Maledon as in Osborn Maledon, one of the city's top law firms — sent him an e-mail claiming that it was impossible to take action. The board, Maledon wrote, had done everything from consulting "IT experts" to talking to security at the Maricopa County Superior Court. (One of the alleged "lezzies," as it turns out, is a judge there.)

Nobody had any idea how to trace the e-mail.

"If the Board knew who sent them, I have no doubt that that person would be expelled from the club," Maledon wrote.

Well, those "IT experts" and "security" people must have been morons.

It might be news to anyone over 50, but of course you can trace e-mail addresses and the source of nasty comments. You just need to file a lawsuit, and the court will compel Google or Yahoo! or even backpage.com to turn over information about who signed up for the e-mail address or who made the offensive posts. Only Web whizzes know how to hide this sort of information from the combined eyes of the law and Internet service providers.

Kick the Bastards Out, it's safe to say, was no whiz.

So, two club members filed a lawsuit. Google turned over what it had about the origins of the e-mail account; so did backpage.com.

Only then did it become clear why the board had done such a cursory "investigation."

The guy who'd posted the nasty comments, the guy who'd sent the nasty e-mails, was a member of the board of directors, Mike Hayes.

D'oh!


Last year, when I broke the story about the Phoenix Country Club's grill problem, I was, I have to admit, fairly blasé about the Men's Grill issue ("Men Behaving Badly," July 19, 2007).

I write frequently about innocent people caught up in events beyond their control; people facing years in prison for a silly mistake; people who stand to lose their kids because of inept bureaucracy. When you're looking at matters of life and death and incarceration, anything that has to do with a country club seems pretty frivolous.

So a group of rich people decides to bar women from one of its dining facilities? Cry me a freakin' river.

But a funny thing happened when the attorney general began to look into the Van Sitterts' complaint. A certain element of the club went nuts.

The board of directors changed the club rules so that a woman can't inherit a membership if her husband kicks the bucket. She'd have to re-apply. (Apparently, the club's grand poobahs thought that Barbara Van Sittert would outlive her husband — if Logan were to kick it, they could be rid of the couple for good.)

They passed another rule saying that anyone who files a lawsuit against the club, or even threatens one, can be expelled from PCC — and held responsible for all legal fees, no matter what the outcome.

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5 comments
Cameron
Cameron

This is pretty bad in terms of trying a group/club/organization going to such great inappropriate lengths to shut down an "idea". I truly believe that The Phoenix Country Club could have taken a common vote amongst members and it most likely would have been shot down. As sexist as it is, I am in favor of having exclusive clubs and associations based on gender. It works for both sides, men and women. Women have several "women-only" healthclubs and I get and fully understand the concept that women want to be able to work out without feeling harrased or likely embarrased at their physical appearance or even the excercises they are performing amongst the male species. For men on the flip side there aren't too many places in this country that are exclusive to men only - unless your 90 years old going to the Buffalo Club or Shriners...and even then I'm not so certain it's men only.??The golf course is a unique place. I've played the sport since I was a kid and I honestly can't rank many things higher on my list of 'fun' things to do than enjoying 18 holes on a beautiful sunny day...HECK, even a miserable day!The point is, I understand the wants & needs of a male only club. Guys want a place where they don't have to whisper a 'naughty' joke, or blow of some steam on the fact that women are a whole different species and that more often than not, as much as we hate to admit, we truly don't understand much of what they do. We just want our own designated time and space to be with other men who enjoy, appreciate, sympathize, and respect what men go through in a lifetime.On another note I am not at all against females on the course itself, or in "their" relatively equal ammenities of the clubhouse. I'm all in favor of having a womans day or designated hours on the golf course for women to play. I think it is fair and respectful to private golf clubs to allot this time strictly for female members. Firstly, it allows females to meet and network with probably what few female members there are in the club...Secondly, It allows men the choice to play amongst them or pick another time/day. In all honesty, women in general, are slower golfers and usually take 1 to an 1.5 hrs longer to play a round than men. So my point is that society should allow each gender ther own spaces and although I disagree with the shanigans and petty actions displayed by the PCC I do agree with the overall message that the Mens Grill should stay exactly that...Men ONLY.

Celiny
Celiny

It is said that everyone is bi to some extent. Not sure about this. But I also heard about the same from some professional sites. Maybe it depends on how to define it.

If you can appreciate the beauty in both men and women, and find yourself attracted to the person regardless of their gender, then you are bi. Many hot and sexy bi singles & couples on ** BiLoves dotcom ** are looking to explore their bisexuality, coming out or enjoying their lives as bi here.

If you are not sure whether You Are Gay, Lesbian Or Bisexual,you may check http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.... The psychotherapist Dominic Davies will tell you the answer.

Mountain out of a molehill!
Mountain out of a molehill!

Sarah, you're right -- you couldn't make up a story this good! This story says a lot about the power players in town and why Arizona and Maricopa County are so backwards. Can't wait to read the next chapter!

Who's paying the legal fees?

Noble Beckham
Noble Beckham

Sick people in nice clothes with too much time and money on their hands.

 
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