Tonight (July 29), the board of La Jolla Tennis Club suspended its former president, Phifer Crute, until January of 2016. She was earlier deposed as president — a post she did not hold long.

Crute had complained to the city about accounting at the tennis club (not to be confused with the tony La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club). The City of San Diego's Parks and Recreation Department responded to her complaint and initiated moves that led to a change in accounting procedures.

But the board jumped on Crute for "actions detrimental to the club" and "conduct reflecting unfavorably on the club." Among other things, Crute had written emails complaining of "fiscal mismanagement" at the club and a "mob mentality" afflicting board members.

She says she got threatening phone calls and a letter from a lawyer saying her statements were defamatory and she could wind up defending herself in court. The tennis-club board also criticized her for so-called "defamatory" statements.

But those accusing Crute of sins seem to forget that she won. After she complained, significant changes were made in accounting. Crute has two lawyers who say the defamation complaints are not valid. They accompanied her to tonight's meeting, which was taped. With the lawyers in attendance, and the tape recorder running, boardmembers would not repeat the charges openly; they only referred to letters they had previously sent her.

Steve Erie, professor of political science at the University of California San Diego, says this is a case of the city outsourcing management of a facility to a private organization, which acted in its own interests, not the city's. The manager about whom Crute complained worked for the club. The club does raise money for maintenance of the courts, but the City of San Diego owns them.

"This looks like pure retaliation against the whistleblower," says Erie. Crute has now filed a complaint with the city auditor who, Erie believes, should oversee the accounting at facilities owned by the city.

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Comments

Don Bauder July 29, 2014 @ 9:24 p.m.

PERSON WHO CHAIRED MEETING REPLIES. I got to Bob Brobst, who chaired tonight's meeting. He does not know Crute. He acknowledged that board members stayed silent at the meeting because Crute brought two lawyers and had a tape recorder running.

Brobst says that Crute told the city that the manager was committing fraud. The city sent an auditor who "found very minor discrepancies," says Brobst. For example, the city didn't like how tennis pros were paid, and that has been corrected. "The auditor said there was no fraud," says Brobst, "but that we don't completely follow [city] procedures. She was not successful."

She says she was successful -- that the changes were significant.

"She has a way of twisting things," says Brobst. Her supporters basically say the same about the officers of the club who suspended her.

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shirleyberan July 29, 2014 @ 9:37 p.m.

If she's suspended for a year and a half she'll have plenty of time to work on her tennis game. Wonder why the boys and girls aren't working well together?

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Don Bauder July 30, 2014 @ 6:39 a.m.

shirleyberan: Have you ever seen people work well together for very long? Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 30, 2014 @ 12:54 p.m.

shirleyberan: This one looks more like retaliation than a power struggle. She had already been dumped as president, so she wasn't competing with anybody for a post. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan July 30, 2014 @ 12:36 p.m.

Really, Don, you should identify the location of this den of iniquity. I thought for sure you were talking about the LJ Beach and Tennis Club down in the Shores, until I realized that that outfit -- watering hole for notables like Buzz Woolley and the late Neil Morgan and the Mt. Soledad Cross Kelloggs and probably Douglas Manchester -- would NEVER have a woman president.

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Don Bauder July 30, 2014 @ 1:01 p.m.

monaghan: I thought I made clear that this was not the LJ Beach and Tennis Club. You raise an interesting point about possible sexism. Crute had been vice president and was elevated to president when the presidency was vacated. But members got her out of there in a hurry, and now have dumped her completely.

Erie pointed out that at last night's meeting, Crute had two lawyers. One was a woman, one a man. The woman was the lead lawyer. The members allegedly recognized the male lawyer but snubbed the female attorney. Best, Don Bauder

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LJresident July 30, 2014 @ 2:46 p.m.

Don - I couldn't agree with you more. This organization has only one interest and it's not the City of San Diego. I personally paid good cash money at this club - never got a receipt and watched the money go into some ones pocket. From what I understand, the city never got a full accounting record from them for prior years.

This past year, a member actually told me that everything was great at the club before the women got involved. They use to simply walk on and play without having to get a reserved time schedule or anything of the sort. And members wonder why this club in La Jolla can't afford a simple ice machine on the grounds. What a shame.

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Don Bauder July 30, 2014 @ 9:24 p.m.

LJresident: Tell me more. I want to know whose pocket the money went into and the circuitous route by which it got there. Send me an email at don.bauder@mac.com. Best, Don Bauder

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