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ClubLink Directors, CEO, Charged After Drunk Driving Death

UPDATED: I’ve received several calls about this story, including the CBC and The Star. Both seem perplexed at how the OPP could charge individuals who weren’t working for ClubLink when this accident happened. I have no answer — other than to think that the OPP got what they wanted — headlines — and that the charges against ClubLink directors, most of whom have no links to the daily operations of the company, will be quietly dropped in coming months.

The implications for private golf couses is much bigger. However, imagine the scene had the server in this case told the son of a rich member that he couldn’t have another drink. Could it have cost him/her their job? Perhaps the bigger issue is what this says about the dynamic of privilege that exists at a lot of private clubs and how that impacts the employees.

The CBC interviewed me yesterday — here’s their take:

The three employees were working the day of the accident. One was the restaurant manager, the other two were bar staff.

But CBC News reports that records show that two of the executives charged are former Clublink vice-presidents and had already left the corporation before the incident happened.

Jim Molenhuis was the company’s vice-president of development.

Murray Blair, the former vice-president of member services, also left the club in 2007.

A spokesman for Clublink confirmed both men left in 2007.

Some are now questioning if the provincial police cast too wide a net in their investigation.

“It kind of looks sloppy to me. I can’t figure out why they wouldn’t know these guys weren’t with the company, or how they found these names,” said Robert Thompson, a golf industry reporter.

Among the others charged are company heads Kuldip Sahi and Bruce Simmonds. Thompson describes both as multimillionaires who would likely have had little to do with day-to-day operations at the club’s restaurant.

Convictions could lead to large fines
“To charge not only the employees but the senior executives strikes me as a lost cause because these are guys who are going to be able to afford the best lawyers, the best legal representation,” said Thompson.

“This strikes me as spending a lot of taxpayer money on something that probably won’t come to the conclusion they’re hoping for anyway.”

If convicted, the 16 accused could each face large fines and possibly even jail time.

Clublink could also lose its liquor licences at its Muskoka resort.

OPP spokesperson Const. Maureen Tilson wouldn’t comment on the charges

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Yesterday’s Blog:

In a fascinating and strange story that will surely have dramatic ramifications for the golf industry, several directors of ClubLink Corp. – including majority shareholder Rai Sahi — have been charged with liquor violations following the deaths of three young men who police allege were overserved at the Lake Joseph Club in Muskoka last July.

The case involves Tyler Mulcahy, the driver, and two friends, who consumed 31 drinks between them before Mulcahy drove home, according to reports. Mulcahy, 20, has killed along with two 19-year-olds. Mulcahy’s father has been active in trying to limit the number of teens that can be in a vehicle driven by another teen.

In a dramatic twist to the tale, police have charged 16 people with liquor violations, including several key ClubLink executives. If convicted, the corporation could face a $250,000 fine. Individuals could face fines of up to $100,000 and spend up to one year in jail.

The list of those charged is: Murray Blair of Muskoka Lakes, Patrick Brigham of Toronto, Paul David Campbell of Muskoka Lakes, Egidio Caravaggio of Muskoka Lakes, Ian Colterjohn, 22, of Toronto, Scott Davidson of Muskoka Lakes, James Flegg, 21, of Oakville, Charles Lorimar, 52, of King City, Jim Molenhuis of Muskoka Lakes, Walter Moon, 34, of Gravenhurst, Neil Osborne of Muskoka Lakes, Kuldip Sahi of Muskoka Lakes, Bruce Simmonds of Muskoka Lakes, Donald Turple of Muskoka Lakes, Robert Visentin of Muskoka Lakes, and Jack Winberg of Muskoka Lakes.

That list comes from a police press release found here.

They’ve been charged with:

Permit Drunkenness on Licensed premises under section 45(1) LLA and Supply Liquor to Apparently Intoxicated Person, under section 29 LLA:

What’s strange about this is it includes several key ClubLink executives who would have had little directly to do with who was being served at the club last summer. And as far as I know, Murray Blair wasn’t even working for ClubLink during the summer, having parted ways with the organization a few months previous. Other ClubLink bigwigs include the company’s majority shareholder and CEO, Rai “Kuldip” Sahi; chief financial officer Robert Visentin; company founder and board member Bruce Simmonds; VP Edge Caravaggio, VP of sales and marketing Charles Lorimer; and Jim Molenhuis, another former ClubLink exec who I thought had left the company prior to the accident

Were the kids in question overserved? Sounds like there is little doubt. Was someone not paying attention? Appears to be the case from the accounts I’ve read. Should there be some degree of responsibility on Mulcahy for driving the car while intoxicated? I think there’s no doubt that the main contributing factor to the deaths of these young men was the decision by Mulcahy to get behind the wheel of a car while loaded.

It is hard not to feel horrible for the families of those involved in this crash. They lost young family members – well before their time should have been up. But are ClubLink executives to blame? What role does personal responsibility play in all of this?

This strikes me as having a decided political element, especially after Premier Dalton McGuinty had a proposed law intended to restrict driving privilges for those under 22 dropped in the face of a public backlash. Apparently someone had to be made an example, and the police decided it was ClubLink executives.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

14 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Only 16 charged?…I’m a Clublink member…maybe to cover their you-know-what, they should have charged every member…..

    Sad situation but maybe their parents should have been a little more aware of their children’s lifestyle…..Wasn’t the driver charged with public drunkenness earlier in the summer??…..

    Parental interest/awareness in their children’s lifestyle should be an ongoing process..

    I find it interesting that some parents don’t get involved in their kid’s activities until ‘something’ happens..

  • You have a drunk white male (let me add that they are responsible for 80% of the DUI deaths), murders his friends, and I am sure terrorized the woman that survived during these antics and now they want to charge the bar. When another gang member shots another person that is involved in activities that have a high chance of them getting shot, you want to lock that person up for life. When a drunk driver kills the most innocents of victims, they dont receive anywhere as much time nor are dealt with as harshly. He died a stupid and tragic death and who is responsible, himself. As long as the LCBO sells liquor and allows you to drive with trace amounts of alcohol, then they should be assuming any responsibility, if any.

  • I worked for Clublink several years ago at a few of their properties. It’s tough to cut members off, I’ve had to do it but I can assure you there are hundreds of other instances of where people should have been cut off and weren’t. I’m glad that the executives have been charged. I don’t think that there is enough educating of the members done to help the servers facilitate alcohol service. The members do not take “no” for an answer and many times there isn’t a manager on-site to back up the servers. I’ve had to physcially take keys away from a member and threaten to call his wife if he didn’t take a cab. I’m sure this happens at private clubs all over the place and is not specific to just Clublink. The members themselves are the biggest roadblock ensuring safe alcohol service. Always boggled my mind that many of the members have more money than they know what to do with, yet won’t take a cab home. TAKE A CAB HOME!

  • Robert – you’re off the mark, bud. The charges are not criminal charges, and have nothing to do with the accident. Clublink did the wrong thing, whether they walked home, took a cab or drove. Bringing 31 drinks to a table of 4 kids (19 and 20 year olds are kids) during lunch ?!?!?!? Aren’t private clubs supposed to look out for the safety of their members and guests? It is an outrage – 31 drinks in a couple of hours – no wonder the OPP, Fantino and the Crown are going for the jugular.

    Wait until the blood alcohol levels are read out in open court – no way out of this one for Clublink.

  • Craig, 31 drinks among 4 people over the 3 hours they were there is 2 drinks an hour, that’s nothing, especially to a 20 year old that can obviously drink. They would have burned off a drink an hour so that makes it even less alcohol in their system. They still shouldn’t have drove, but I think they were feeling good and lost control of the car that was way too powerful for a 21 year old.

  • This incident is tragic. If we examine repercussions in the absence of the obvious emotional pain felt by all involved, there appear to be several themes:

    – Are the current regulations and laws appropriate for young drivers? I think not and putting additional restrictions on young drivers is a good thing, regardless of the additional discomfort it may be on our youth and their parents;
    – Should the golf club be held responsible in some form for this tragedy? Seems like a stretch to me but servers of alcohol need to take an active role in the consequences of their serving behaviour. If this legal action accomplishes that objective, then I think it is a good thing;
    – What about personal responsibility on the part of the young man and his parents? Clearly he made a horrible decision that not all children would have made but clearly a good percentage would have. What about the parents? Should the parents have bought a powerful sports car for their 19 year old son? Some might say no and I would agree. My parents would not allow my older brother to own a motorcycle when he was 19 even though he was highly responsible, very careful, and a fine young man. Simply, a powerful two wheel vehicle in the hands of teenagers is too dangerous. Parents need to be parents.

    In my view, this legal action will impact the golf industry but more broadly will impact the restaurant service industry (the kids were at the Waters Edge restaurant at the Lake Joseph Golf Club). Hopefully, it will also impact parents, kids, friends, and family.

  • Hi RT. Just back from down south. These kids were all my son’s age and of course he knew them. As a member, I would be thankful if my son had had too many and the club cut him off. I think most parent would. My understanding of the event (and it’s mostly heresay) is that the kids at the club that day were visibly intoxicated. The server also knew them, so that would require added pressure not to cut them off (remember these are young people).

    This whole horrible incident reminded me of my youth, when my father knew we were out being irresponsible and drinking. At the start of every summer, he would sit my brother and myself down and give us a lecture that went something like this.”I don’t care what kind of state your in, but if you’re drunk and stupid enough to get behind the wheel of a boat and hit someone or someone falls out and that person get chopped up into little pieces from the prop, make damn sure you pick up every single piece even if it takes you all night, because that person could just as easily be you.”

  • This actual goes a bit deeper than what has tragically happened here.

    I marshall at a golf course and cannot believe the shape some golfer allow themselves to attain, especially during tournaments.

    Last year I had to go back to the clubhouse and ask the staff to take two golfers off the course, what would have happened had they drove the cart off a bridge or over a gulley.

    As a marshall I would have been responsible, but in this case I was the Ogre.

  • Wow, I wish none of us had to talk about this and drunk driving was a thing of the past. I can only imagine how sad and “angry” these parents must be at the loss of their child. No one should ever have to deal with this.

    That being said, to put “responsibility” in the hands of the server seems to overlook one key thing – being responsible. People need to “be responsible” to themselves and to others. We do that by taking responsibility for our own actions.

    To put this onus in the hands of (often seasonal) individuals whose compensation is predicated by being amiable, likable, responsive providers of a service, seems absolutely ludicrous. In fact, it is a no-win situation where the server is either is accosted by a belligerent drunk or abused by a sober individual confused for behaving in an intoxicated fashion. This would also seem to beg the question, how is a server supposed to know who is driving and who is not?

    I also would appreciate a bar to cut my son, daughter, friend or family member off it they had consumed too much and planned to drive. However, I would never put that “responsibility” on these people, but would place it on those driving, to monitor their own consumption.

    I see this as an unfortunate statement on society and less of a golf issue. We are not quick enough to take responsibility for our own actions, despite how distasteful those actions might be.

    I ultimately believe that “zero tolerance” laws for drunk driving is the only way to manage this. I believe these were incorporated in parts of Europe and South America. This combined with punishments befitting to the “crime” would make everyone more “responsible”.

  • g, you said “People need to “be responsible” to themselves and to others.” Do you believe that serving 31 drinks to 3 people is a responsible thing to do?

  • I have ‘heard’ that the staff had asked about the ‘kids’ transportation from the Club and the staff was told that “they were being picked-up”.
    I am sure there are many details yet to come out.

  • Hi Greg. You asked if serving 31 drinks is responsible, which is a fair question. But before you ask this, I would ask if “Is ordering 31 drinks is responsible?” Many would say not. Before someone serves someone a drink, someone else orders it. In my opinion that is where the responsibility starts and to some degree ends.

    Can we blame the salesperson at the corner store who sells cigarettes when I get cancer somewhere down the road? “They sold him a carton a week for 15 years!!!” This example is a bit facitious, however, I do think that this is a function of people always looking to redistribute blame for their actions.

    similarly, I suggest that penalties that match the outrage we all feel towards this type of tradgedy and zero tolerance policies being the only way to mitigate this. I suggest that having loopholes that trace blame back to servers, just allows people to absolve themselves or defer this responsibility.

  • Tragic, absolutely tragic!! However, the OLLA (Ontario Liquor Licencing Act) states; section 29 – “No person shall sell or supply liquor to be sold or supplied to any person who is or appears to be intoxicated…”. What happened at the Water’s Edge, yes, is tragic however…according to the “Law” it is illegal as is driving 150 in a 40 and the “Law” states that the server/licensee and the Directors & Officers (section 61 (2) Derivatives) are responsible for the safety of their patrons…period. The Supreme Court of Canada has defined the “duty of care” as ” …one is under a duty not to place another person in a position where it is forseeable that that person could suffer injury.” The way to handle it…when every server is hired there is “written” policy backed up by management (signed off by the Board) that states when a patron has consumed “x” amount of drinks the server must ask how that person is getting home…if they are driving, they are cut off. They must be assured that they will be backed up 100% by the management, in fact, if the server does not abide by the policy then they can be fired immediately. I cant believe that it has taken this long for us, as a society, to learn from our mistakes…absolutely tragic!!

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