Oak Knoll Public Golf Course golf pro Bob Haney and his staff must attend City of Ashland harassment training after two people said they heard him use a racial epithet, said Ashland Parks and Recreation Department Director Don Robertson.




Haney, who runs the pro shop and golf course, will continue as an independent contractor, but his contract with the parks department will be adjusted. Robertson said he could not disclose what the adjustments will be.




City officials began investigating Haney after resident Gerard Jones released an e-mail alleging 243 problems with Haney and the golf course. Jones was fired by Haney in 1997 over a payroll dispute but has continued to play at the course.




Robertson, Assistant City Attorney Richard Appicello and Parks and Recreation Superintendent Rachel Teige interviewed 18 people during the investigation, Robertson said.




"The language he used &

while it is technically protected by the First Amendment and is constitutionally allowed &

is not language we approve of. Two people said they had heard him use the 'n' word," Robertson said.




One person also said Haney has made some women feel uncomfortable, he said.




Robertson said the people who were interviewed were promised that their names would be kept confidential.




They included past and present employees as well as regular golfers.




Jones said he has heard Haney refer to professional golfer Tiger Woods as "N---- Woods" and that Haney uses the word to describe black people. Jones said Haney also has used sexist and homophobic language.




Jones said he is not advocating that people stop playing at the city-owned golf course. But he said city officials should not allow Haney to have the job, which involves working with the public.




"The only thing I'd be happy with is if they fired him. Instead they are protecting him and they're wrong to do that. protecting and defending him, they are as guilty as he is," Jones said.




For his part, Haney said he has not used the racial slur.




"I know the allegations are all false. If it comes down to two out of 18 people, I question their loyalty and morality ... If 16 of 18 people have not heard this word, that seems like a pretty good percentage. That's like 90 percent. If I was a president with a 90 percent approval rating, I would be doing pretty good," he said.




Haney said when Tiger Woods first started playing on the PGA Tour as a young man, he and other people referred to him as "Tigger Woods" because he was like "a baby tiger."




As for whether he thinks he should attend city of Ashland harassment training, Haney said half the residents in town need to go.




He said the investigation was prompted by the unfounded allegations of a disgruntled former employee.




"This has been a difficult situation for me as a business man and a father and as a person who wants to live in this community," he said.




Parks Commissioner JoAnne Eggers said she is satisfied with the way parks and city staff members handled the investigation. She said Haney is well-qualified to handle the complex job of running the pro shop and overseeing the golf course.




"I think people make mistakes," she said. "Where there is an appearance of an expression of prejudice, we need to and will address it. I think it's important that staff and commissioners continue to make decisions based on fact, as we can discover it, and not speculation. I feel good in the way that staff has handled this."




The controversy comes amid parks commission and department efforts to boost use of the golf course.




Parks Commissioner Rich Rosenthal did a capstone project on Oak Knoll Public Golf Course trends when he was working on his master's degree in management. He found that the number of rounds played in 2006 had fallen to their lowest level since 1980, likely due to increasing competition in the Rogue Valley.




Rosenthal said he did not feel it was appropriate to comment on personnel issues in relation to the investigation.




The parks department added a driving range and has made a number of capital improvements at the course since then. In the 2005-2006 fiscal year, the golf course had a net loss of $40,565. Losses shrank to $33,302 for the 2006-2007 fiscal year, largely because expenses were lower, according to figures provided by Teige.




The number of rounds played and annual pass revenues fell between the two years, but revenues for monthly specials, cart rentals and driving range fees rose.




Other recent efforts to boost revenues included a tour of golf courses that included Oak Knoll, new signs along Interstate 5 and at the golf course, a golf fitness class at the driving range and a junior golf camp.




Commissioners also have worked to increase use by non-golfers through such events as outdoor evening movies. They have discussed a possible multi-use trail that could circle the course.




Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.