Golf course superintendent accused of drinking at work, bullying, giving away merch sues city for his job back

The former superintendent of a New Mexico municipal golf course — who was accused of drinking in the pro shop, bullying employees and giving discounts on new merchandise to friends and family while mismanaging city funds — has sued the city for alleged wrongful termination.

Christopher Cordova, who had previously managed the Carlsbad Municipal Golf Course in the city of Carlsbad, sued the city after he was fired from the post following an investigation into accusations of misconduct.

In a lawsuit filed May 10 in Fifth Judicial District Court, Cordova demanded he be reinstated in his previous job, receive back pay for the months of missed salary since being terminated in April and receive punitive damages from the city.

Cordova’s attorney listed as John Hightower from the law firm Sanders, Bruin, Coll and Worley in Roswell did not return a request for comment from the Carlsbad Current-Argus.

Carlsbad City Attorney Denise Madrid Boyea also did not respond to a request for comment.

Cordova fired after city investigates conduct at golf course

Cordova managed the golf course and pro shop starting in June 2022 when he was promoted from caretaker, receiving an 18 percent raise, according to city officials. As golf superintendent, Cordova reported directly to his father Ted Cordova who resigned from the city in February.

Officials said the pro shop operated at a deficit of more than $100,000 at the pro shop this fiscal year during Cordova’s management, a combination of faulty timesheet coding, inventory and other accounting discrepancies.

An estimated $25,000 worth of inventory was missing, officials said.

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The Carlsbad City Council voted to reinstate Cordova as a city employee, but not at the golf course and not in a management role, after a six-hour hearing on April 10.

In an April 17 email from Interim City Administrator Wendy Austin, and included in Cordova’s complaint, he was terminated from the offered job of a caretaker at the Bob Forrest Youth Sports Complex when Cordova did not show up for work on his first day April 15.

Austin wrote that the city considered this “a resignation or abandonment” of Cordova’s job and that was being terminated.

Alysia Cordova, an attorney who represented Cordova during the city council meeting where he was reinstated as a city employee, said via email after the meeting that the job her client was transferred to marked a 39 percent pay reduction.

Alysia Cordova, attorney for Christopher Cordova, questions a witness during a hearing on Christopher Cordova’s appeal of his firing, April 10, 2024, at the Janel Whitlock Municipal Annex in Carlsbad.

She said in an emailed statement the day after the meeting that Cordova intended to challenge the city’s actions.

“For the past three months, the City has repeatedly denied Christopher Cordova any realistic opportunity to refute ever-changing, fabricated allegations against him,” Alysia Cordova said.

“Last night, the Carlsbad City Council unanimously decided that Interim City Administrator Wendy Austin should not have terminated Christopher and reinstated his employment. While we had hoped last night would bring resolution, the City Administration continues to make shocking and erroneous decisions that we intend to challenge.”

What were the allegations?

After interviews with employees at the golf shop, financial staff at the City of Carlsbad and reviews of city records, officials made several allegations against Cordova, including mismanagement of funds, consuming alcohol at work and harassing employees.

Officials, along with employee testimony, alleged Cordova told workers to “force balance” cash drawers and inventory by falsifying records. Cordova also used pro shot credit to buy himself a golf cart, the city alleged and claimed an eight-hour shift for himself on at least three occasions while Cordova was not at work.

City officials said Cordova held a Christmas party in 2022 at the pro shop, where he allowed guests to self-serve alcohol in violation of city policy, while charging $199 in alcohol on a work credit card.

The allegations also included bullying employees, ignoring a complaint of sexual harassment against a worker by another worker, and getting into an altercation with a golfer.

The City also said Cordova gave frequent discounts on golfing equipment and green fees to his friends and family, including a new set of golf clubs for his father Ted Cordova who was the city’s HR director at the time.

In total, 5,637 items were missing from inventory, the city alleged, about 25 percent of its inventory.

Cordova said he was never allowed to review or provided a copy of the investigative report the city used as basis for his termination.

Adrian Hedden can be reached or@AdrianHedden on the social media platform X.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek