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Former members of Trump's Doral golf club may wait the rest of their lives for refunds from the president

Taylor Dolven, Miami Herald on

Published in Business News

The Brookes, who consider themselves liberals, display in their foyer Peter Souza's book of photographs commemorating President Barack Obama's tenure in the Oval Office. They're so unhappy with President Trump that Lee ironed a peace sign patch purchased at a Pompano Beach flea market to cover up the "Trump National Doral" emblem on the sleeve of one of his golfing shirts.

Brooke said he respects the club's staff but dislikes the in-your-face reminders of their boss. And those reminders abound. An "Apprentice" show poster sits on display in the lobby. Trump's name is prominently printed in at the bottom of a gold crest on doormats. For now, Brooke said he is able to compartmentalize -- to an extent.

Faced with the decision of whether to resign or continue his membership after the election, Brooke said he remembered his aunt who loved Greece and continued to travel there during the military dictatorship in the 1960s and 1970s. "She said, 'I'm only on Earth for a limited number of years,'" he said.

But Trump hasn't made it easy for him to stay.

In 2014 the Trump Organization planted dozens of bushy areca palm, buttonwood and fishtail palm trees next to homes along the golf course, blocking the views of more than 1,000 residents who say they paid a premium for golf course views. Brooke spoke out against the trees at Doral city council meetings and served as chairman of the Concerned Citizens of Doral that advocated the trees be removed or trimmed. In 2016, Trump sued five residents for trimming the trees themselves. All five lawsuits were dismissed.

Now those trees form a 30-foot wall next to Brooke's house, where a sole yellow tabebuia tree once stood with the wide golf course behind it. The enormous green barrier serves as a daily reminder of who is in control.

 

If Trump wins reelection in 2020, Brooke said he doesn't know what he'll do about his membership.

"I'm hoping I can outlast him," he said. "I'm 74, I don't know if I will."

Inspired by dozens of former members of Trump's golf club in Jupiter, Fla., who sued Trump for withholding their membership deposits, Brooke has been looking for a lawyer to take up the case of Doral's former members. In Jupiter, Trump continued to charge dues to former members on the club's deposit refund waiting list but barred them from using the club while they waited for their refunds. Trump settled the case for $5.4 million in 2018.

Brooke points to a 2006 letter from the then-director of membership at Doral announcing the deposits would be temporarily refunded to resigned members on a 1:1 basis, down from 4:1, a change Brooke believes constitutes a change in the terms of the membership. "In the future, the list will be maintained so as not to exceed a two-year wait for a deposit refund," the letter said.

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