published Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Tennis pro will keep working for Chattanooga, council panel hears


by Cliff Hightower
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    Champion's club, a city-owned tennis club off Lupton Drive, is suspected of conducting private business after a city audit uncovered the violations.
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Greta Hayes, the city's recreation director, said Tuesday the city is trying to find a way to compensate a tennis professional who came under fire recently for his management of the Champions Club.

Changes will be made at the Champions Club, including limiting current facility manager and tennis pro Orlando Lourenco's responsibilities, she said. But the plan is to keep him as a city worker.

"He will be a city employee," she said.

The Champions Club came under fire after a recent city audit said Lourenco was operating a private business at the club with city employees. He gives private lessons, holds tournaments and runs a pro shop at the facility.

Any revenue from those events goes to Lourenco, the audit states.

But Lourenco and Parks and Recreation Director Larry Zehnder said a contract had been established 11 years ago allowing the practice. The audit states the contract had never been signed and ran out in 2003.

Hayes told council members during a Parks and Recreation Committee meeting Tuesday that the plan is to charge fees for the services and then pay Lourenco a percentage of the fees.

Councilwoman Deborah Scott said she was not inclined to have a city employee get extra compensation.

"I don't know if there happens to be any other department in the city that allows that," she said.

But Zehnder said those types of arrangements are not unique and other cities across the United States give similar compensation packages.

City Attorney Mike McMahan has said there are immense hurdles in navigating through the city's ethics policy.

Hayes told council members the department planned to request two more employees for the club, one a full-time manager, so that the tennis pro is not assuming all of the responsibility.

But the tennis professional position will not go away, she said.

"We plan to move forward with the tennis pro position," she said.

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