Someone's teed off in Coronado

Not graft and corruption... courtesies

Coronado Municipal Golf Course's bayside setting and low green fees make it popular among local and visiting golfers.
  • Coronado Municipal Golf Course's bayside setting and low green fees make it popular among local and visiting golfers.
  • Image by Matthew Suárez

“Roger Miller has run roughshod, and there’s no oversight.”

No, not that Roger Miller, “King of the Road,” but Roger Miller, grifter of the greens, who calls the shots at Coronado Municipal Golf Course, where his word has been law, some say, since 2008.

Mike Horvath, who worked 25 years at Coronado Muni from the age of 12 until last December, says Miller has done pretty much what he pleases, City of Coronado bylaws be damned. Moreover, Horvath alleges that Miller, as director of golf services, engaged in a campaign of retaliation against anyone who dared question the operation of his 18-hole fiefdom.

From his vantage point as outside service manager of the pro shop, Horvath says he observed a reign of freewheeling corruption and intimidation that some aficionados of the genteel old game might find a bit unsavory. “I saw all of it.” Whether it’s at the Bayside Bar and Grill or on the greens, Horvath contends, ‘Miller time’ has been favoritism time, the most prominent beneficiary of Miller’s largess (other than Miller himself) being former Coronado mayor Casey Tanaka. Although Tanaka’s no longer in office, Mike Horvath is still plenty peeved and thinks that the public should get a peek inside the island caddy shack. Horvath also alleges that certain unnamed Coronado City Council members as well as other “city officials” received perks.

Among the mulligan set, Coronado Municipal is considered rather scenic, and is praised for affordable green fees — $35 to $40 in most cases. But, says Horvath, when it comes to tee times, restaurant service, and other emoluments of the Coronado 18, the public has been getting the shaft for years. To non-golfers, some of Horvath’s accusations may seem a bit arcane, but to those who ply the links, tee times are, at times, reason to be teed-off.

When I asked Horvath, ‘Why should anyone care?” he replied, “Miller was shutting out the public by selling more advance tee times than allowed under Coronado bylaws, so the City of Coronado collected excessive advance fees. At the time, the facility was not allowed to sell more than eight tee times per hour up to 48 hours, or more than four per hour after 48 hours up to 14 days out — and no tee times more than 14 days in advance. From 48 hours to two weeks, there was an additional fee of $15.00 per person.”But, charges Horvath, Miller told his employees, “Sell them all, sell them all, sell them all!”

Horvath alleges that Miller’s management far transcended the bounds of minor indiscretions. “Miller arranged tee times a year in advance for the mayor, ahead of the public; he’d come in with this piece of paper and say, ‘Here’s Tanaka’s tee times.’ I’m not aware of that being a perk. Sometimes, Tanaka and his sixsome, often including Miller, wouldn’t even have a tee time and would just force themselves onto the golf course. I don’t know if you know anything about golf etiquette, but you can’t play six people — it’s against the frickin’ rules; you can’t go beyond five.”

Casey Tanaka refers to preferential tee times and gratis grub not as graft and corruption but as “courtesies.” When I asked him about the allegations, he sounded an affable note, affirming, in part, the tee time variances, but denying in whole cloth the restaurant allegations. “We had a 9:00 tee time reserved for the first Saturday of each month; it was just understood that it was when we’d play, but it wasn’t really reserved a year out. I did it as a ‘morale-building’ thing with people who had some connection with the City: Roger; the Port District commissioner; the retired fire chief; and a Coronado City Council member. No free food though; I never got any courtesies at Bayside.”

Free food? Horvath claims that it wasn’t only Tanaka who was on the gastronomic take. “Miller didn’t pay for any meals for at least two years, because Bayside Bar and Grill employees were instructed not to charge him. It was an ethics violation and conflict of interest. Miller also allowed the restaurant to target patrons who complained about the shitty service.”

Some say Roger Miller runs Coronado Municipal Golf Course as his private fiefdom.

Some say Roger Miller runs Coronado Municipal Golf Course as his private fiefdom.

City of Coronado website

Horvath says that things came to a boil in 2015 after several Coronado Muni employees made an effort to obtain information from the City of Coronado regarding certain details of Miller’s practices. “When someone at city hall tipped off Miller about the records request,” alleges Horvath, “Miller contacted the city and asked, ‘Who wants his information? He doesn’t need it.’”

Horvath maintains that Miller began a campaign of harassment aimed at him. “He defamed me by accusing me of ‘battery’ on a female worker in the pro shop and by claiming that I used an anti-gay slur. And one time, he even allowed Bayside management to call the cops on me; he did some crazy shit.”

Horvath feels that he was regarded as a peon, and his concerns taken less than lightly. “I saw an email where Miller wrote, ‘You’re using an elephant gun against this guy Horvath while all you need is a pea shooter.’” Miller provided the following (excerpted) email sent by Doug Andersen, owner and general manager of the Bayside Bar & Grill, to several City of Coronado employees, including Horvath’s supervisor:

“Your employee Mike Horvath has been menacing various employees of mine for a great while. Among his many transgressions, he called a gay employee of mine a “cork counting faggot;’ he crashed a wedding in the clubhouse and called the bride ‘fat’ to her face; and he told the head of an annual golf tournament on the course to ‘fuck off’. The golfer became so angry after the incident he threatened to never return his golf tournament to Coronado…. I was forced to call the police on Mike after he threatened a female employee of mine calling her ‘a bitch’ and to ‘watch your back’ among other things. He is now banned from entering the restaurant and has received an official ‘Trespassing Admonishment’ from the Coronado Police Department which makes him subject to arrest if he enters the restaurant portion of the building. I have no choice [but to obtain] a restraining order against Mike for the protection of my employees.”

Defamation issues aside, the gravamen of Horvath’s beef may be a bit arcane for some. He explains, “The City of Coronado exercises no oversight over Miller. He sold tee times and collected fees in violation of Coronado policy. Originally, there was a limit of four advance tee times that could be sold in a given hour, so the general public could have access.” Eventually, concedes Horvath, the Coronado City Council later passed a resolution to allow up to six tee times per hour, but Miller didn’t even adhere to that limit. “The head golf pro is supposed to be in charge of tee time allocation, but Miller would come in with a highlighter and make changes on the sheets. My boss, Ron Yarbrough [head golf pro at the time] would say to me, ‘What the hell are we gonna’ do now?’”

Horvath was terminated in December 2017, coinciding with the retirement of Yarbrough, who was replaced by Brian Smock in February, 2017. And Miller’s title is no longer director of golf services, the City of Coronado having reassigned that moniker to Phil Fitzgerald. But according to Horvath, it’s a distinction without a difference, and as director of recreation and golf services since 2015, Miller still calls the shots. As for the Bayside Bar & Grill, the eatery’s lease is up for renewal in October of this year.

In any event, Horvath believes that his exit from Coronado Muni was engineered by Roger Miller. “There were rumblings, although I can’t prove it, that Miller told Smock not to renew my contract.”

Roger Miller did not return calls requesting his input.

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