Donald Trump and his sacked greenkeeper were on collision course last night after a furious war of words broke out between the two men.
Paul O’Connor is threatening to take the Trump Organisation to an employment tribunal after spending less than a year in his job at the billionaire’s £750million resort at the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire.
The Irishman was head-hunted by the billionaire after winning plaudits for his work to prepare Carnoustie Golf Links for the 2007 Open Championship.
Mr Trump said his “years of training and experience at Carnoustie made him an obvious choice” to become the links superintendent at Menie.
But the relationship turned sour last week following Mr O’Connor’s sudden departure – and yesterday the two parties publicly rowed about the post.
It is believed that, privately, Mr O’Connor is claiming his dismissal was ultimately down to his refusal to implement plans to have a neighbouring property which looked on to the resort screened from view.
However, members of the Trump team are understood to have wanted rid of Mr O’Connor because they felt he was confrontational.
The 43-year-old, who is married with a daughter, has brought in Dundee lawyer John Muir to represent him – and last night the solicitor insisted his client had done nothing wrong.
He said: “Mr O’Connor is unaware of the reason or reasons for his apparent dismissal, as none has been given.
“I would wish to stress that contrary to some reports which I have seen in the press Mr O’Connor did not voluntarily leave his post, nor quit ‘for personal reasons’. I would also stress that at the present time I am unaware of any suggestion that my client has acted improperly or unprofessionally.”
The Trump Organisation had agreed to say that Mr O’Connor left for family reasons to protect his reputation – but yesterday George Sorial, Mr Trump’s head of international development, launched a stinging attack.
“Paul O’Connor was fired after months of poor performance,” he said.
“He was unable to handle the role and we did what was necessary to protect the project.
“This decision was unanimously supported and welcomed by the entire development team,” added Mr Sorial.
“Paul was given the option to depart gracefully but through his lawyer has chosen to make it a public spectacle.”
Mr Muir confirmed that his client was ready to take Mr Trump to an employment tribunal.
“As in every case where an employee feels aggrieved regarding the circumstances of their dismissal or aggrieved at certain matters connected with their employment, they do have the right to raise these issues at an employment tribunal,” he said.
“In the event that a satisfactory resolution cannot be reached with the Trump Organisation, then Mr O’Connor may well make an application to an employment tribunal and of course such a tribunal would be open to the public.”
But Mr Sorial said the Trump Organisation was “more than prepared" to fight Mr O'Connor’s claims.
He said: “This is obviously a cheap attempt to extort money from us and we think Paul has been given bad advice. Its unfortunate but we are not concerned.
“Every other employer deals with this on a daily basis – this only became public because it is a Trump project.
“The truth is the ultimate defence and we have dozens of statements and examples to support what we said,” added Mr Sorial
It is understood that Mr O’Connor will lodge his tribunal case next week.
Mr Trump’s championship course is expected to open in 2012, with designs for the clubhouse now being finalised.
The plan to build two golf courses, a £250million hotel, 950 holiday homes and 500 houses has already been backed by Aberdeenshire Council.