News Politics

Roger Scott Tennis uproar

April 26, 2010

Donna Suskind, publisher of the local tennis publication First Serve Magazine, is challenging the City of Pensacola’s management of its Roger Scott Tennis Center (Roger Scott Tennis, A Victim of Good Ol’ Boy Politics?).

Suskind charges that Center director, Bruce Caton – brother of former City Attorney Don Caton – has a sweetheart deal with the City:

“Bruce Caton currently holds the city-paid position of Tennis Director with the City of Pensacola. He is also the owner and operator of Bruce Caton Tennis, a privately owned company that pays the City of Pensacola $180 per month for use of the facility to run its instructional programs. We could not locate any record of a contract or agreement between the City and Bruce Caton Tennis.”

According to Suskin, Caton has had the same exclusivity arrangement for over 15 years. His company has 9 tennis pros that charge lessons at $50 per hour.

“Bruce Caton is also paid by the city as Tennis Director to recruit for the larger state and national tournaments that were promised after the expansion in order to bring in revenue for our city. While Roger Scott currently holds some sort of tournament just about every weekend, they are not receiving any revenues from these local tournaments and they also do not affect the income brought in during the weekdays by Bruce Caton Tennis.”

Suskind has taken some criticism for her article and posted this comment on her website this weekend:

“Ignorance does not justify oppression. It only makes it possible.”

Social oppression occurs when people of authority seek to surpress the truth. This country was founded on truth and freedom of expression. When did it become unpopular to tell the truth? When did we decide to hide from information that, while uncomfortable, may provide us with the opportunity to review, analyze, and make hard decisions that are good for the whole? When did a select group of individuals…the same individuals that show up time and again…become the true representation of this community’s tennis voice? When did asking hard questions become an open invitation for personal attack? While I understand that many people have accused me of personally attacking Bruce Caton Tennis, when did our city leaders…Roger Scott’s leader…become off limits to political review…financial review? Is it not our obligation as citizens – taxpayers – to question our leaders – to stay awake and vigilant as citizens? It is, after all, our money, our energy that pays for this facility and again on the courts.

I am the publisher of First Serve Magazine. I have come from a long line of publishers who have grappled with First Amendment rights and the backlash of small minded people. I will not stay in the shadows talking only of things that are about “playing nice”. It is my job to present tennis Pensacola with all it’s wonderful successes, challenging issues, educational opportunities, etc. If that means that I lose some readers, I will be forever sorry for that. And, I will continue to have the courage of my convictions. Pensacola Junior Tennis took a hit with the loss of Scott Robinson, an example of the power wielded by this situation. Children were hurt and parents were unhappy. That is something worth standing up for. Of all the issues presented in the article, this issue was the one closest to my heart – other parents’ hearts. To me, this was unfair oppression.

I do not offer this response as defense. I offer it in hopes that everyone will remember that we all make choices. There were choices to be made all along the way…by our leaders, by Bruce Caton Tennis, by attorneys, by commissions and parks and recreation leaders, by me, by this committee, and, ultimately, by the taxpayers. If we cannot police our own community, what will ultimately happen to this facility and tennis in general? Critical conversations are necessary and change is inevitable. Always there is pressure to oppress the truth when it appears personal or uncomfortable. It is not my desire to alienate and I have been saddened by the vicious response and heartened by those who are willing to go through the uncomfortable places to a place of rational review; and, hopefully, change that benefits us all.

Thank you for listening.”

  • M Briggs Boggs March 31, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Just a question – is Bruce Caton the grandson of Dave Caton, active in Pensacola tennis around 1941?

  • Donna Siskind May 24, 2010 at 8:08 am

    First of all in response to Mr Cabot, the article stated facts not rumors. The facts that continue coming out regarding tennis professionals failing drug testing and a city of Pensacola Parks & Rec Director who refuses to follow the same policy that in in his human resources manual is a situation of politics. The City officials in this case have an OBLIGATION to make and enforce policy and make choices that are in the best interest of their city tax payers. They also have a responsibility to be responsible for your tax dollars and in this case it would seem that they have been negligent in over-looking the revenues lost to Bruce Caton Tennis and instead have asked you, the tax payers to come up with the money needed to run this tennis facility. I would say that the residents of the City of Pensacola have a good case of gross negligence against the City in this situation.

  • T.R. Cabot May 21, 2010 at 12:46 am

    All of this gossip does nothing to help tennis in Pensacola. I feel that if Mrs. Suskind truly belonged to or cared about the tennis community, she wouldn’t submit herself to muckraking and sensational journalism to try and make a buck.

  • Donna Siskind April 30, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I had Bruce Caton on the cover of my magazine and also did a feature article on him last year. The only axe I have to grind is to demand that our government do the right thing for the City that they are working for. This is NOT personal. As a City employee and representative Bruce Caton is not “off limits” to financial and political review Christy!

  • Christy April 29, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    “…hell hath no fury as a woman scorn…”-Get over it, Donna. When you are unhappy with a place, you CAN just leave-you don’t have to burn it down behind you. Move on. It’s a great place with great tennis pros. You are not helping anything.

  • C.J. Lewis April 27, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Bravo to Donna Suskind! She has exposed just one more area where the council leaves money that could be ours on the table to benefit a local favorite, in this case Bruce Caton.

    Is there really no contract between the City and Bruce Caton Tennis? Do they have a similar sweeetheart deal over at the city’s golf course?

    Who is on this new tennis committee advising the city? Are they all friends of Bruce Caton? If anyone on the committee designated to be concerned about the failing financial health of the city or is this just all about preserving the status quo within the tennis community?

    The city needs to hire a new Tennis Director who owes his allegiance to the city residents and taxpayers vice his own for-profit business. He does get a cut of what tennis students pay to his instructors, right?

    Bruce Caton Tennis and other tennis instruction businesses should pay to use a court like everyone, paying a special business rate. They should all give us a percentage of their instructional fee too, perhaps 20 percent.

    It would be interesting to learn how much the city would have benefited during 2009 if the tennis center had been run like a business rather than a fiefdom.

  • Jake Renfroe, III April 27, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Ms. Siskind,
    I know to the penny what Bruce Caton, the staff, and the other teaching pros made in 2009, but I refuse to be cannon fodder to your negativity and name calling on this forum.

  • Donna Siskind April 26, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Can Mr Renfroe tell the PEOPLE how much does Bruce Caton tennis net every year off of the use of these Public courts? Something tells me, he has NO CLUE.

  • Jake Renfroe, III April 26, 2010 at 8:19 am

    The current relationship Bruce Caton has with the City and Roger Scott Tennis Center is the same one that’s been in place since the days of Red Vickery and Jody Skelton. Current Parks and Recreation Director, David Flaherty, has put a citizens committee in place to review and make recommendations with regards to staffing policies as well as any other issues or concerns that arise around Roger Scott or the courts at Bayview and I110. Mr. Caton has been a teaching pro at Roger Scott for nearly three decades and has done a good job running the facility for the past few years. By the way, he is currently a part-time City employee who earns $8.50 per hour and receives no other benefits from the City. I’m sorry Ms. Suskind chooses to use her magazine to vilify a good guy instead of trying to help fix the problem (if there is indeed a problem).

  • Brian C. Abrams April 26, 2010 at 7:13 am

    Good for her.
    Sadly, very very very few words would have to be changed and it would read as if it were aimed at any local government boby.
    Hell, ANY government body.