David Staller, a member of the club’s board of directors and executive committee, admitted to deleting a section of text that cited a DNAinfo report about a recent, private meeting on March 14 at the 16 Gramercy Park club, in which it was revealed that the 124-year-old institution was in danger of closing because it was running out of money.
The paragraph in question — which Staller claimed was only a couple sentences long when he removed it — included reports on the club’s fiscal losses, its $30,000 debt to Con Edison, and a $30,000 penalty for failing to provide its employees with workers' compensation insurance.
“What had been written seemed to be potentially harmful for the club,” Staller said. “Since we’re in a state of transition and there’s been some contentious behavior, I thought I’ll see if I could remove that sentence.”
Wikipedia replaced the paragraph soon after it was scrubbed from the site.
“We’re trying to move forward into the future and bring in more members,” Staller explained. “I did not replace the sentence, I did not rewrite anything. I just removed something that seemed unkind.”
At a meeting earlier this month, the club's Financial Audit Committee revealed that the Players Club was in "imminent danger" of closing despite selling off its prized John Singer Sargent paintings to raise money. The committee also recommended ousting the club's executive director, John Martello.
Other club members said they weren't surprised by what Staller did.
“This is a group of people that try to keep all of their activities secret and eliminate any hint of what goes on to the outside world,” said a longtime member of the club, who wished to remain anonymous. “It shows the lengths they will go to prevent any transparency.”
Clive Burrow, a former member of the club who was expelled about a year ago for speaking with the press about the club, said Staller’s reaction to the Wikipedia entry was typical.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or tear my hair out,” Burrow said. “It’s just so typical of these people to change the truth. I just hope the board member is censured for [it].”