Golf club’s ‘outrageous’ behaviour exposed in court
TWO long-term members of a Brisbane golf club that expelled them have had their membership reinstated, after taking their case to the Supreme Court.
Tony Morris QC told the court the behaviour of Pacific Golf Club towards Ian Bensted and Bruce Judd, club members for 15 years, was "outrageous".
Mr Bensted of Clayfield and Mr Judd of Coorparoo will now be able to return to the Carindale golf course, after being excluded for more than 230 days.
The two retirees said outside court they had been unfairly expelled for asking board members legitimate questions.
They had applied to the Supreme Court for orders to make void club decisions about their suspension, placing them on good behaviour periods and finally expulsion.
When each tried to appeal the decisions they were told they would have to pay $1000 for the cost of calling an extraordinary general meeting with 50 per cent of members.
Mr Morris told the court there was no such rule in the club's constitution.
Mr Judd, 62, was expelled in January, after first having his membership suspended for 12 months and told he would have to be on 12 months' good behaviour after the suspension.
Before his suspension Mr Judd had voiced concerns about a ballot box for election of board members appearing to be empty, just three days before the 2019 election.
He said in a court affidavit he had been shocked when his ballot paper fell straight to the bottom of the box.
Mr Judd said he was called a pest and told to get out of the club by general manager Daryl Wilson, after asking whether the ballot box had been emptied.
Days later he was suspended, after a disciplinary meeting held in his absence.
Mr Bensted, 61, said in his affidavit that he was suspended and then expelled in March, after asking questions about a club decision to allow a retirement development on club land.
He denied claims, at a disciplinary hearing, that he had written or sent anonymous emails that injured or prejudiced the character or interests of the club.
In his affidavit, Mr Bensted said the Pacific Golf Club board had introduced new disciplinary rules concerning members' conduct, which were not in the constitution.
Members were being disciplined for trivial or concocted issues, he said.
"A fear existed between members that they could not speak out about any issues affecting them and the club," Mr Bensted said.
"I believe this excessive disciplinary behaviour was introduced to control members who dared to ask questions about the development."
In court, Mr Morris described the disciplinary allegations against the two members as "nonsense" and the board directors' behaviour as "utterly atrocious".
He said Mr Judd and Mr Bensted, who paid $2000 a year to be club members, had taken the matter to court to have "unconstitutional conduct" set aside.
The court heard the club this month offered to revoke its decisions against the two men if they withdrew their appeal applications, but that offer was not accepted.
The club did not file any documents in response to the two court applications, but this week agreed to set aside the suspension, good behaviour and expulsion decisions.
A judge today ordered the club to pay most of the two members' legal costs, on a standard basis.
Outside court, solicitor Duke Myrteza said the club's radical behaviour, expelling two members on very tenuous grounds, had deprived Mr Judd and Mr Bensted of the right to play golf.
Mr Bensted said outside court the club had made an example of himself and Mr Judd, but had "fully capitulated".
"This is a 100 per cent win for Bruce and I. This is justice, because we should never have been in the position we were in," Mr Bensted said.
"I'm looking forward to seeing my mates. It's going to be so good," Mr Judd, who has been a club sponsor for 10 years, said.
In February, the club received council approval to redevelop the clubhouse and facilities through a $10 million joint venture with retirement group Reside Communities was approved by council.
Two hundred retirement units will be built at the golf course.
Originally published as Golf club's 'outrageous' behaviour exposed in court