September 1, 2014

Golf course manager files for bankruptcy

Photo | HBJ File
Photo | HBJ File
MDM Golf Enterprises used to manage the municipal East Hartford Golf Club, formerly known as Long Hill Country Club, until the city hired Billy Casper Golf to run the course last year.

The former manager of Hartford's two city-owned golf courses — terminated from his contract last year over lack of upkeep — has faced a string of lawsuits over the past few years, mostly for unpaid bills, culminating recently in the foreclosure and bankruptcy of his Bloomfield golf course.

At one time or another, Hamden resident Matthew Menchetti through his company MDM Golf Enterprises LLC managed five municipal golf courses in Hartford, East Hartford, Glastonbury, and Woodbridge, while owning and operating courses in Hamden, Bloomfield and North Branford.

Today, Menchetti only has the Bloomfield and Hamden courses left, after all four municipalities dumped his company for other operators. Two municipalities even sued him: Hartford in July over contract violations and Woodbridge in 2012 over unpaid water bills.

Menchetti's legal troubles don't stop there. In April, insurer Cigna filed foreclosure against Menchetti's Bloomfield course over its failure to make payments on a $4.5 million mortgage. In August, his company that operates the course — MDM Golf of Gillette Ridge LLC — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The property in question — the Gillette Ridge Golf Course — is on Cigna's Bloomfield campus. The insurer sold Menchetti's business the property and financed the deal. When it filed for foreclosure, Cigna said Menchetti's company still owed $3.9 million on the loan.

Through a spokesman, Cigna said it does not comment on pending litigation.

On Aug. 4, Menchetti's Gillette Ridge Golf Course filed for bankruptcy. There are 25 listed creditors in the filings, including New York's TCF Equipment Finance, which provides loans for golf carts and other vehicles. The two biggest creditors were Cigna, which is owed $3.5 million, and FPJ Investments of Hamden, which is owed $2.9 million.

Menchetti and his attorney did not return calls for comment.

Because Menchetti sets up separate limited liability companies for every course and business he manages, the Bloomfield bankruptcy likely won't touch the finances of his other assets, unless a creditor has a specific provision allowing it to raid the other businesses, said Barry Feigenbaum, partner at Hartford law firm Rogin Nassau, who specializes in bankruptcy cases but is not involved in Menchetti's legal proceedings.

"Setting up separate LLCs is a way to protect assets," Feigenbaum said. "It is a way to protect a series of successful properties from other unsuccessful ones."

Menchetti has at least 19 different LLCs set up for the golf courses and clubhouse restaurants he owns or manages, as well as for his companies like MDM Golf Enterprises and On Course Construction, which does golf course repair work.

Menchetti has been the subject of at least a dozen lawsuits, largely since 2012, in U.S. District Court and Connecticut Superior Court. The lawsuits are highlighted by collections for unpaid bills, unsatisfactory work on contracts, and Menchetti failing to show up for court appearances.

In January 2013, Superior Products Distributors of Southington sued Menchetti and On Course Construction in Connecticut Superior Court over unpaid bills. After Menchetti failed to appear for the hearings, Judge Susan Peck issued a civil arrest warrant to force him to come to court.

In October, Cincinnati lender PNC Equipment Finance sued Menchetti, On Course Construction, and his Gillette Ridge businesses for $220,000 for defaulting on a loan for golf carts and other vehicles. The bank eventually was allowed to seize 130 golf carts, four utility vehicles, and two ball pickers to repay the debt, court records show.

In April, Woodbridge accounting firm Weinstein & Anastasio filed a collections case in Connecticut Superior Court against 17 of Menchetti's golf courses, restaurants, and management companies for not paying for tax preparation services. In the case, the accounting firm is asking for $54,912.

In July, the city of Hartford sued Menchetti and five of his limited liability companies for failing to comply with its contract to manage municipal golf courses in Goodwin and Keney parks. The city did not specify the amount of money it would ask for, except to say it would be more than $15,000. The lawsuit stems from a city audit that says MDM failed to make about $1.3 million in required improvements to the course.

Unlike most of the other cases, Menchetti did respond to the city's lawsuit, asking on Aug. 21 that the case be dismissed because the city did not fill out its summons paperwork properly. That motion has not been ruled upon.

The city of East Hartford also dumped Menchetti from the management of its municipal East Hartford Golf Club last year over his failure to keep the course in good repair.

"The course just got in deplorable conditions," said Theodore Fravel, East Hartford parks & recreation director. "We wanted a more polished look and a playable course."

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