Watertown’s mayor told to ‘cease and desist’ with opposition to golf course deal

Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith
Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith
Published: Dec. 16, 2022 at 5:04 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith’s opposition to the Watertown Golf Club purchase agreement has resulted in a letter telling him to cease and desist. (See the full letter at the end of this story.)

The notice was written by a lawyer for developer P.J. Simao, who owns Ives Hill Country Club.

Simao has a private compensation deal with Mike Lundy, who plans to sell the Watertown Golf Club to the city of Watertown.

Lawmakers voted 3 to 2 this week in favor of an asset purchase deal - essentially agreeing to buy the golf course in Thompson Park for $3.4 million.

While the deal itself is between Lundy and the city, Simao has a stake in the matter.

If the sale is finalized, Lundy would compensate Simao for limiting the Ives Hill course to 9 holes instead of the current 18.

According to the cease and desist notice, Mayor Smith violated the city’s code of ethics “by publishing a privileged and confidential legal memorandum prepared by the attorney for the City Council without a waiver by the Council of its privilege; you used social and broadcast media to promote opposition to the Contract; and you publicly urged that a lawsuit be brought to stop the Closing and cancel the Contract.”

The letter is referring to a 7 News report that Watertown’s city attorney told lawmakers he had legal concerns about the deal because the city had done no appraisals. Lawmakers voted in favor of the asset purchase agreement two weeks after that.

Mayor Smith told 7 News the cease and desist notice won’t stop him from talking about issues publicly.

“This just raises more concerns and suspicion about this deal,” he said.

Smith has opposed the deal because of the price tag, the speed of the transaction and what he says is a lack of transparency.

The letter from Simao’s lawyer also accuses Smith of libeling and defaming Simao.

Simao did not disclose what Smith allegedly said.

As for Smith, he told 7 News Friday that he has no idea what Simao is referring to.

“That is an absolute factual lie,” Simao responded.

See the letter below: