Boulder Creek to City- and County-Owned Golf Courses: Give Me Your Email Lists


Northeast Ohio Golf

If you provided your email address to any of the city- or county-owned golf courses in Northeast Ohio and you thought your contact information would be kept private — you thought wrong.

In fact, even if the golf course specifically stated that your email address “would never be shared, rented or sold” and you believed those facilities would abide by their clearly stated privacy policies– again, you thought wrong.

And it’s a truly convoluted reason as to why your private email address has been given away by these city- and county- owned golf courses.

Boulder Creek Golf Club owner Joe Salemi has made more than a dozen “sunshine law” public records requests of nearly every government-owned golf course in Northeast Ohio, demanding that each of the golf course’s managers provide him with their email newsletter registrations lists — even if those lists were collected under a “do not share” privacy policy.

Salemi is citing a 2008 Ohio Supreme Court ruling GLASGOW v. JONES in his request for those email newsletter lists. Typically, sunshine laws exist so that government will not do business behind closed doors and so that those agencies will make available the public records created in the course of their business.

But Salemi has cited a Court ruling about emails sent and received by a government employee in the course of her daily duties, and the subsequent provision of those emails under an open electronic records request. So the Court ruling is not directly on point: the ruling had nothing to do with the collection of personal addresses to an email newsletter list — and certainly had nothing to do with the dissemination of email addresses that were collected for a specifically-stated use under the specifically-stated terms of a clear privacy policy.

The format of the records request was nothing more than a one-sentence email asking for the list, followed up by a phone call. A “sunshine law” request need not state a reason for the request, nor must the person making the request give any indication for the intended use of the information.

Regardless, nearly every golf course has complied with Salemi’s request, choosing not to fight the request on merit because of the legal costs.

Salemi said in a phone conversation that he planned on using the collected email lists to send email marketing messages and discount offers for his Boulder Creek Golf Club. Typically, the use of such email lists from persons who have not “opted-in” to receive those messages are considered spam by nearly every commercial mail server company (Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, etc.) and internet service provider (ISP).

Salemi also said that he felt entitled to use the golfer email address information because none of the government agencies involved have turned him down under the open records request. Salemi stated that because of all the advantages that government-owned golf courses have over privately-owned facilities (i.e. no property taxes, no need to turn a profit, easier access to capital), that his use of this law to his benefit his business was an acceptable balance.

“I wish you would focus your efforts on exposing to our area, how every city and government operated golf course is losing tax payer money and are being financed with money from the general funds,” said Salemi by email. “It is stupid for government to compete against private business, especially in these economic times. If more taxpayers knew the truth, many would have debates in their communities about the need for golf courses that lose money.”

Jane Christyson, the Director of Marketing and Clubhouse Services for the Cleveland Metroparks Golf Division, was one of the last holdouts in turning over their email lists to Salemi. The Metroparks spent several days discussing the matter internally and with their attorney, but in the end decided to give up their list to Salemi. Christyson said that they weren’t fully confident that a legal challenge would work, and so they didn’t want to take it on. “We weighed the options and felt the odds in our favor weren’t quite good enough,” said Christyson.

The Cleveland Metroparks is one of the agencies that states they “will not share, rent or sell your email address” directly on their email newsletters’ privacy policy.

Other known golf courses that have been asked to comply include Grantwood in Solon, GlenEagles in Twinsburg, and Ellsworth Meadows in Hudson.

So every golfer might want to think twice about providing his or her email address (or any contact information, actually!) to any publicly-owned recreational facility, as a flood of spam could be coming from Salemi and anyone else who asks. As of right now, it appears these types of “electronic records” are simply available for the asking — regardless of the match of the case law cited or the promises made when those records were collected — as currently no agency in local government wants to stand up to say “no” or to fight for their customer’s privacy.

5 Comments

  1. October 11, 2010

    I’ve gotten emails from the course – I’d say they def send out some great offers (as mentioned by violet dragon) – others may not think so but in that case, delete the email…whether you act on them or not is your decision. Why would anyone be upset to be on an email list of the #3 course in the state, who is sending out DEALS? Why would I not want the option to hear about them? If you don’t want to be on the list you simply unsubscribe it is as simple as that…

  2. October 11, 2010

    Anyone who thinks the $35 for 18 w/cart offer this years sucks is crazy. Boulder Creek is like #2 or #3 in Ohio and to be able to play it for $35 is ridiculous.

  3. October 11, 2010

    I am on the newsletter for Ellsworth and although I was confused as to how I got on Boulder Creek’s newsletter I certainly wasn’t upset. Infact the last newsletter was about league rates and I am strongly considering moving my league there…wouldn’t have known about the price without the newsletter. If you don’t want to hear the specials unsubscribe from the list not a big deal.

  4. October 9, 2010

    Love the G2 quote. Joe Salemi’s first email offer will more than likely be something dumb like offering free ketchup or mustard with the purchase of a hotdog at the turn. Years ago when he installed the signs that said I couldn’t putt on his practice green unless I played the course that day basically told what kind of marketing idiot I was dealing with. How quick he forgot how many times we played his course when the was no green. Then he goes and does something stupid like that. Well you can send your emails, Joe… but I bet the offers suck.

  5. October 8, 2010

    Joe Salami can take his overrated and overpriced golf course … right along with his discount offers for his Boulder Creek Golf Club … and take a flying leap. Save sending an email with a discount offer, Joe. You can have my answer now if you’d like … my offer is this … nothing. Not even the cart fee … which I would have appreciated if you had put up personally.

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