In The News

 
Country club lets women into lounge Attorney demands an apology from city

May 20, 2005

By Jo Appleton Senior Staff Writer

 RANCHO SANTA FE — Women are now allowed in a lounge at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club that was once designated for only men, but the attorney for a woman with a discrimination suit against the club said he's seen no information to indicate that being true.

 During the May 3 city council meeting, the club's attorney, John Shiner, said that the policy had been changed to allow both male and female members into the lounge in question, but added that doing so was not an admission of discrimination on the club's part. 

"Because of the club's longstanding and positive relationship with the city, the club is welcoming any members and their guests into the facilities in question," Shiner said. "I must indicate again that there has been no discrimination."

 Shiner later asked the city to apologize to the club and its members, who "were demonized" by the city during its April 19 council meeting when the city found the club in default of its lease with them.

 A sign reading "The Lounge" has now replaced the previous "Men's Locker Room," and a letter stating that the lounge is open to all members was mailed out to country club members, Shiner said. He said that the director of the city's real estate assets department, Will Griffith, inspected the country club after the proposed changes and was "completely satisfied."

 As of press time, Griffith was not available for comment.

 Dan Lawton, the attorney for Maureen Pechacek-Howe, who filed a discrimination lawsuit against the club last year after being refused service in the men's lounge, said he has not witnessed the changes first hand, and that he and his client have not been invited onto the premises to see them. Pechacek-Howe's membership was terminated in December.

 "There's no information that they're letting any women in there," said Lawton.

 "The action, not the words, is what's important. Their words up to now have not amounted to much in terms of credibility. They said they don't discriminate, and they do discriminate. They said this is a locker room, and it's not a locker room," Lawton said. "When you look at all those statements you start to question the veracity," he added. "We're skeptical of what they say." 

Pechacek-Howe's case will be heard before an arbitrator. A conference call is scheduled for May 20 between the two attorneys and the arbitrator, who is expected to set a date for the arbitration at that time, Lawton said.

Contact Senior Staff Writer Jo Appleton via e-mail at jappleton@coastnewsgroup.com.

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