NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. — A private yacht club the operates on New Smyrna Beach-owned property is accused of racial, gender and religious discrimination in a just-refiled lawsuit.
The legal battle is aimed at forcing the city to end its $25-a-year lease with the all-male, almost exclusively white Anglers Club.
City leaders don’t comment on pending litigation, but they did confirm the lease has not been scheduled for a discussion at any upcoming meetings. This is despite an outside legal opinion in 2009 that the city could renegotiate the terms of the lease or even attempt to remove the yacht club through an eviction process.
The $25-a-year lease was locked in in the 1940s for at least 99 years.
The lawsuit, filed by resident Rhonda Kanan, accuses the club of being an “exclusive, discriminatory fishing and boating white-boys club… engaging in numerous acts of racial, religious and sexual discrimination.”
The suit even accuses the private club of holding “Robert E. Lee parties.” The attorney representing the Anglers said he did not know if the claims of that theme party were true.
“I just feel like there’s no room for racism or discrimination in the world today,” Kanan said. “I feel like the city of New Smyrna Beach and its leaders are actually supporting discrimination. They can say they’re not, but their actions are very clear, they speak volumes.”
Kanan notes in her lawsuit that “because the Anglers discriminate based on sex… she will never become a member and enjoy the publicly-owned property.”
During a court hearing last month, the attorney for the Anglers argued that private clubs are allowed to make their own membership rules, much like fraternities or the Junior League. He later confirmed that almost all the members are white males.
“Not only should they take a closer look at it, they should do something about it,” Volusia County NAACP President Cynthia Slater said by phone.
Slater said she planned to write a letter on behalf of her chapter to city leaders asking for the lease to be reviewed.
“In this day, with all of the things all these companies and organizations are looking at, the laws and rules and protocols, that needs to change. Shame on the city of New Smyrna Beach,” Slater said.
The Anglers’ attorney plans to file a motion to dismiss the complaint.
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