Six weeks after a couple who was kicked out of Columbine Country Club won a lawsuit against it, another removed member — the son of a former club president — has sued, demanding to be reinstated.
James Battaglia, 53, sued the club July 22. His lawsuit, like the one that found success a month and a half before, offers a rare peek behind the posh cabanas and beyond the immaculate lawns of the exclusive club near Littleton, where memberships can cost six figures.
Battaglia is of that world. He “grew up at CCC and has spent most of his life on CCC grounds,” his lawyer wrote in the lawsuit. His three children live there. His father, Samuel Battaglia, a former accountant and University of Denver professor, became a lifelong member in the 1970s. And when Samuel died in 2017, he left his so-called “permanent life membership” to James.
Permanent life members are an esteemed bunch at CCC, afforded “rights and privileges superior to that of the other membership classes,” according to the lawsuit. And, most importantly to the lawsuit, they don’t have to pay dues.
So, how is it then that Battaglia came to be kicked out for not paying?
According to his lawsuit, the club’s finances were $250,000 in the red when, soon after his father’s death in 2017, its board of directors called a vote on revenue-raising measures. Dues were raised then and again in 2018. In 2019, Battaglia received a $6,000 assessment bill, he claims. He agreed to a monthly payment plan, according to his lawsuit.
What followed, in Battaglia’s telling, was a series of suspensions for nonpayment and reinstatements after he paid. This happened in April 2019, again in mid-May 2019, for a third time in late May 2019, and yet again that November, when he and his daughter were kicked out of the club’s dining room for eating with a suspended account.
Battaglia, a stay-at-home father who had $1.4 million in his trust fund, owed $782 at the time, he claims. His efforts to pay his bill and rejoin CCC were ignored on several occasions in the first half of 2020, according to his lawsuit, and his membership was terminated that July.
“The loss of Permanent Life Membership rights cannot be fully compensated at law. Plaintiff has experienced several (sic) mental anguish, distress, anxiety, and depression stemming from the loss,” his attorney, Benjamin Volpe of Volpe Law in Parker, wrote in the July 22 lawsuit.
Battaglia claims that CCC’s behavior fits into a pattern of “heavy-handed treatment” of permanent life members and even suggests such treatment contributed to the suicide of life member and jeweler Harold Bowman five days before his 90th birthday in 2007.
“CCC terminated … Harold Bowman, refusing to allow him back on CCC grounds,” the lawsuit states. “On information and belief, Harold Bowman committed suicide. Harold Bowman’s obituary states, ‘His passions of life include his golf membership (Columbine Country Club).’”
CCC responded to Battaglia’s lawsuit in an emailed statement provided by its lawyer, Carrie Johnson with the Denver law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.
“We were very disappointed to be sued by James Battaglia over a dispute concerning non-payment of membership financial obligations,” the statement said.
“His father, Sam Battaglia, was a former club president and greatly admired by our membership for his contributions to the club,” the statement continued. “We have worked extensively with James Battaglia regarding his non-payment and will continue to work in good faith to resolve his payment dispute.”
In February, Battaglia asked CCC for a large trove of records, including a list of every member, minutes of every board of directors meeting since 2017 and all communications between the club and members since mid-2019. His request was denied entirely, he says.
Battaglia’s lawsuit demands those same records, along with restoration of his permanent life membership; an undetermined amount of money for damages, including emotional distress; interest; and attorney fees. CCC lawyers have not yet responded in court.
Battaglia’s lawsuit will be heard in Arapahoe County District Court. It was a judge in that same court who, on June 8, ruled Columbine Country Club must turn over documents to Henry and Kristina Adams, two former members who were kicked out of the club last year following allegations of unseemly and unruly behavior that they denied.
Judge John Scipione determined CCC “effectively rigged” its enforcement process to result in the Adamses’ expulsion. The couple’s attorney then praised Scipione’s decision as “one of Colorado’s first in favor of a member against a country club.” (Unlike Battaglia, the Adamses did not ask a judge to reinstate their membership. They only sought documents.)
Despite Scipione’s order, the Adamses have not seen those documents or attorney fees the judge ordered the club to pay them. The CCC has claimed it doesn’t have to pay the Adamses $29,300 in attorney fees because it acted in good faith. It initially claimed it also doesn’t have to turn over the files because it plans to appeal Scipione’s ruling, but Johnson informed the judge last week that her client has reconsidered and decided not to appeal.
Columbine also got a new general manager this month. Jason Murphy previously worked as the general manager at Pinehurst Country Club in Fort Logan.