Ex-member takes legal shots at Maroon Creek Club
An Aspen resident is taking Maroon Creek Club to court over allegations that it stripped him of his membership for religious reasons.
The lawsuit from Mark Ostrofsky, who also lives in Houston, claims club management has singled out its Jewish members for unbecoming behavior while non-Jewish members engaging in similar conduct have emerged unscathed.
The suit seeks a court injunction to reinstate his membership and lift the banishment against him as a member of the public. It also seeks a 15-year injunction against the club from taking disciplinary action against Ostrofsky or his wife’s club membership.
Additionally, the suit accuses the club’s management of operating it as if it “is above the law” with the city of Aspen. That includes allegations the club has breached its agreement with the city, which owns part of the Maroon Creek property, by limiting public play on the course and cutting down more than 1,000 trees on the course when it was permitted to fell 120.
The defendants are Maroon Creek Limited Liability Co., which does business as Maroon Creek Club, along with Maroon Creek Investors and two of the club’s employees — director of golf Scott Erwin and general manager David Chadbourne.
The club’s ownership structure is partly controlled by attorneys Andy Hecht and Ron Garfield. On Wednesday, an attorney with their Aspen firm issued a statement saying the club legitimately kicked out Ostrofsky and it does not discriminate.
“The Maroon Creek Club denies Mr. Ostrofsky’s meritless claims that the Maroon Creek Club wrongfully terminated Mr. Ostrofsky’s club membership, including the false allegations that the Maroon Creek Club and its management discriminate against any of its valued Jewish members,” said David Lenyo, an attorney with Garfield & Hecht PC, in a statement given to The Aspen Times. “At trial, the Maroon Creek Club and its management will demonstrate that Mr. Ostrofsky’s club membership was justifiably terminated due to his conduct and that its decision to terminate his club membership was made for legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons.”
Ostrofsky said he was under his law firm’s instructions not to speak about the case, noting he would have preferred to settle the matter out of court but the club did not give him due process.
“I did not want to file this lawsuit,” Ostrofsky said. “We wanted to meet with them, and they wouldn’t do so. And we never broke the rules at that club.”
Law firms from the Front Range are involved on both sides of the complaint.
The defendants haven’t filed a response to the lawsuit, which the Denver firm, Shapiro Bieging Barber Otteson LLP, filed July 30 in Pitkin County District Court.
On Tuesday, District Judge Denise Lynch granted the defendants’ firm Hall & Evans LLC an extra two weeks to file their response, putting the reply time in mid-September.
The suit says the Ostrofsky family enjoyed the club for six years before their membership was terminated in August 2019, a decision driven by selective enforcement of club rules by club management.
“Other non-Jewish Maroon Creek Club members who have engaged in egregious breaches of the Maroon Creek Club Rules and Regulations, including physical altercations, dishonesty and unethical behavior, public indecency on the golf course, and other loathsome behavior, have not received any disciplinary action, suspension nor expulsion,” alleges the suit.
An Aug. 9, 2019-dated letter from Chadbourne to Ostrofsky offers the club’s point of view for instigating the breakup. The letter is an exhibit to the complaint.
“As you recall when you first joined the Club,” the letter said, “I had to reprimand you for making disparaging remarks about the Club and using profanities on the golf landing while a senior manager of the Club was giving a prospective member a tour and overheard you. I later had to reprimand you when a fellow member reported to me that you were speaking negatively about the Club, our golf course, etc., in front of employees and fellow members, putting them all in an uncomfortable position.”
The letter added Ostrofsky more recently had behaved rudely toward members and employees, which showed he had not “made or will make any attempt to change your behavior or decorum at the club.”
The suit, however, says management “proceeded to falsely claim that Mr. Ostrofsky had done each of these things as a pretext to terminate his membership and ban him and his family from the Maroon Creek Club grounds because of his religion or creed.”
The suit also portrays Erwin and Chadbourne as “overtly devout Christians” and leaders of an authoritarian regime at the club. Erwin tried to proselytize members, “an unwelcome prospect in which Mr. Ostrofsky has never expressed interest or consent,” the suit says.
Ostrosky’s reputation was damaged because of losing his membership, the suit says. He now is socially ostracized and the value of his Aspen home has even dropped as a result, according to the allegations.
“Mr. Ostrofsky’s expulsion from Maroon Creek Club became a widely known black mark in the Aspen community, conveying a negative connotation of him and his wife and impairing the Ostrofskys’ ability to gain acceptance for membership at other private country clubs around the country,” the suit says.
Because the club has a lease with the city, the suit argues that it is bound to local and federal civil rights laws.
Ostrofsky’s claims include extreme and outrageous conduct and discriminatory practices in violation of Aspen municipal code against all of the defendants; intentional interference, defamation and slander, and civil conspiracy against Erwin and Chadbourne; and unreasonable termination of membership against the club.
According to Ostrofsky’s Wikipedia page, he is an “American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, New York Times Best Selling Author and public speaker.” His books include “Get Rich Click!: The Ultimate Guide to Making Money Online” and “Word of Mouse: 101+ Trends in How We Buy, Sell, Live, Learn, Work and Play!”
Initiation fees at Maroon Creek Club are in the $250,000 neighborhood.
Aspen City Council approved a contract with Daniel Joseph (DJ) Watkins during Tuesday’s regular meeting to move forward with his intentions to operate his proposed “Aspen Collective,” which is currently occupied by Mia Valley’s Valley Fine Art.