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'Team Thomas' tennis instructor is dropped

The Westchase Community Association sends William Thomas away from the bargaining table empty-handed, despite residents' desires.

By LOGAN D. MABE

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 19, 2000


WESTCHASE -- Last month, hundreds of residents petitioned the Westchase Community Association to keep a popular tennis instructor under contract.

The board had decided to cut loose Team Thomas, which for the last six years has run tennis programs for children and adults in the community.

So loud was the outcry, the board agreed to return to the bargaining table and good-faith negotiations with Team Thomas president William Thomas.

For reasons the association is not specifying, Thomas is now officially out.

"Basically, we showed up there and I really feel they had no intention of even negotiating the contract," Thomas said of his March 14 meeting with Westchase officials. "The good faith is not there."

Community association president Bob Argus did not return calls seeking comment. Neither did property manager Roganne Clark and association attorney Steve Mezer, both of whom attended the meeting with Thomas and his attorney, Mike Addison.

"When we arrived, we were basically told that they had no interest in entering into any contract," Addison said. "They said information had been obtained by them in the intervening two weeks that they felt justified them in not going forward in a contract relationship with Team Thomas Systems Inc."

Thomas' programs are to end by March 31.

Addison said Westchase officials would not elaborate on what they had learned.

"The reception was icy cold and didn't heat up," Addison said.

That's a marked contrast from a Feb. 24 community association meeting, where angry residents demanded that Thomas be kept on. Parent after parent took the podium, telling board members that Thomas and his team of tennis instructors were an integral part of the "Westchase family."

Thomas had already signed a contract tendered by Westchase officials that gave the association an increased cut of program fees in exchange for Thomas' use of the Swim and Tennis Center.

But Argus said at the time that board members never finalized the agreement and withdrew the offer. He said tennis programs, such as the after-school camps for children, would continue but not under Thomas' direction.

Eventually, the board satisfied the 100-plus crowd by saying it would resume "good faith" talks with Thomas.

But that never happened, Addison said.

"It was all a waste of time," Addison said. "I was very disappointed. I don't know where it's going to go now. As far as we're concerned, we have a contract. It was signed and returned. Now, it's a question of law, I guess."

-- To reach Logan D. Mabe, call 226-3464 or e-mail him at mabe@sptimes.com.

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