President ’s Jupiter golf club has launched a legal fight to avoid reimbursing nearly $6 million in dues and fees to former club members.
Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter had been charging dozens of people who were seeking to quit the club while also barring them from using the golf course, restaurant, spa and other amenities.
The club on Monday filed arguments appealing , which called for the club to repay those members.
The club’s appeal maintains that members seeking to quit the club knew they had to keep paying dues and fees while waiting for membership deposit refunds. Those refunds were to be paid when enough new members had joined to take their place.
“Nothing in the Plan allowed them to, in effect, maintain their full Club access while waiting their turn in the refundable membership deposit line,” the appeal said.
The Trump Organization and Bruce Rogow, the attorney handling the Jupiter club appeal, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Seth Lehrman, an attorney for the former Trump club members who filed suit, declined comment about the club’s appeal.
The nearly four-year legal dispute centers on the former Ritz-Carlton club in Jupiter that Trump took over in 2012.
Prior to Trump buying the club, some members there had paid between $40,000 and $200,000 each for refundable club deposits to join.
They argued that the policy under Ritz-Carlton allowed people who said they wanted to quit the club to pay dues and keep using the facilities, while they waited for new members to take their spots. After the deposits were refunded, they would then stop paying dues and stop using the club.
That changed after Trump took over, according to testimony during last year’s trial. The dues continued to accrue for people who resigned their memberships, but those people were not allowed to use the club while waiting for their membership refunds.
Trump’s representatives have argued that the club was on the verge of financial collapse before he took over and spent $25 million upgrading the golf course and improving facilities.
To lower the club’s debts, Trump offered members willing to forfeit their deposits the chance to pay reduced yearly fees and to also have access to other Trump properties, including the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach.
“We took something that had really gone bad and we made it great again,” Trump’s son, Eric Trump, testified during an Aug. 16, 2016, hearing in West Palm Beach.
Eric Trump, who helped manage Trump golf clubs, testified that waiting for membership refunds can take years and that paying dues was part of the commitment.
“It’s very much like a co-op building,” he testified. “It’s the communal aspect of the thing that keeps a club going.”
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra’s disagreed in his Feb. 1 ruling. Mara determined that baring people still paying fees from using the club “revoked or canceled their memberships” and entitled them to refunds within 30 days, according to his ruling.
The next step in the case is likely attorneys for the former club members to file their response to the appeal, which would then trigger a written rebuttal from the club. The court could then call for a hearing or rule based on the filings.
Trump wasn’t individually named in the lawsuit, but as leader of the club and the company that owned it, he provided videotaped testimony in last year’s trial.
After being elected president, Trump said he would turn over operations to his golf clubs and other businesses to his two adult sons and a business executive.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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