A former Lisle golf pro who was charged with stealing funds from a golf course recently was hired to serve as a manager at the village-owned RedTail Golf Club in Lakewood.
Terry Remke, 56, of McHenry originally was charged in 2008 with stealing more than $10,000 from the Lisle Park District.
He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of Class B misdemeanor theft for unauthorized control of property not exceeding $300, and was placed on two years’ probation, according to DuPage County court documents.
In the agreement, Remke was ordered to repay $150,000 to the Lisle Park District and apply for a separation refund of his employee contributions to his pension and give that $19,583 to the park district.
Remke declined to comment and said, “One of these days, I’ll talk.” He then deferred questions to Lakewood Village President Paul Serwatka.
Serwatka said the village-owned golf course appointments are made by Lakewood’s Chief Administrative Officer Jeannine Smith, and he supports her decision.
“What we are talking about here is whether or not the most qualified, most experienced candidate for the job – a candidate who is praised for his abilities by seemingly everyone in the industry – should be given a second chance to redeem himself after an unfortunate incident – a misdemeanor — that took place more than a decade ago,” Serwatka said. “And in Mr. Remke’s case, I believe a second chance is warranted.”
Remke began serving as the Lakewood golf course general manager March 20. He is in charge of the club’s operations, providing oversight to staff, managing tee times, managing the purchase and sale of golf equipment and overseeing proper record-keeping and audit requirements, according to the position’s description.
The position’s advertisement listed the salary as $60,000 with a performance-based bonus plan.
Remke worked at the golf course owned by Lisle Park District for 14 years and resigned as superintendent of the club in May 2007 after “questionable financial practices” were discovered, district officials previously said.
At the time, authorities said Remke accepted checks from groups sponsoring large golf outings, but instead of issuing receipts for greens fees, he put the checks in the cash register as a purchase of merchandise from the pro shop beginning in 2005. He then would steal merchandise equaling the amount on the check and sell the stolen items, authorities said.
He also issued duplicate receipts to golfers and pocketed their greens fees and allowed friends to use the facility free of charge, authorities said.
“Mr. Remke demonstrated a very sincere remorse for his role in the 11-year-old incident, and I believe very earnestly he wants nothing more than an opportunity to redeem himself and to get back into the world of golf, his passion,” Serwatka said.
Serwatka said the village’s first choice for the position was Curt Peterson, the course’s golf pro. Serwatka said Peterson declined because he already has too many responsibilities as golf pro.
Serwatka said Peterson sat in on interviews and recommended hiring Remke, adding that of all candidates interviewed, Remke notably was the most experienced and qualified.
“All the references we reached out to from prestigious clubs said he is fantastic and knows golf,” Serwatka said. “They said people will come here because of him. People say he got a bad deal. I’m not trying to make excuses, but it was 11 years ago.”
Serwatka said Remke was upfront in his application about his past, and a background check was conducted for the first time on a golf course member.
“We did a Google search and had concerns of our own, but we reached out to several references,” Serwatka said. “At the end of the day, public perception aside, can we say with a clean conscience that he was the most qualified and experienced? Absolutely.”
The position does not need approval from the village’s board.
Before Remke was hired, RedTail was implementing new policies for more accountability, such as setting up cameras that can track transactions, Serwatka said.
Smith said Remke previously was employed by Euclid Beverage for 11 years, and Serwatka added that Remke was responsible for substantially bigger money transactions daily.
“While I understand some of the concerns raised, I also know that those perpetuating the rumor mill have intentionally generated a certain degree of embellishment and sensationalism here,” Serwatka said. “Our village administrators must make such decisions objectively and based upon the actual findings of the background investigations conducted.”