After the University of Hawai’i filed a lawsuit against former head men’s basketball coach Gib Arnold on Wednesday afternoon, Arnold sent a statement to KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello late Wednesday night contesting the lawsuit and allegations of an unpaid hotel bill:
I find the UH lawsuit to be ridiculous and pathetic. The hotel bill was from 3 years ago and not even in my name nor did I set up the reservation. I only was asked to leave my credit card. My exit checklist after being terminated without cause included a section on being clear of any outstanding bills. Human Resource did not bring up any issues at that time and cleared me. I have never personally been contacted by UH about this. The only contact came years later from their attorney to my attorney who they are paying tens and thousands of dollars to chase down a two thousand dollar billing error by the Palms. It just doesn’t make sense. If I or one of my Assistants owe it we will be happy to pay it, in fact UH can deduct it from the 1.4 million they owe me. – Gib Arnold
The University’s lawsuit claims Arnold can’t collect $1.4 million in damages he is demanding for being fired.
The part of the contract in question refers to a “Liquidated Damages Provision.”
This Agreement may be terminated by the University at any time without cause upon ninety (90) days written notice to Coach. In such event, University will pay Coach as liquidated damages, a lump sum amount equal to the total amount of compensation earned under the terms of this Agreement as of the date of the termination (incentives and extensions are not included in liquidated damages).
In the lawsuit, the university says the clause “wrongly penalizes UH by requiring it to pay Arnold twice for a job he did once.”
It also accuses Arnold of deceiving UH, obstructing an NCAA investigation, concealing violations and coaching others to hide things like improper car use and recruiting events.
UH alleges Arnold lied about paying a Las Vegas hotel bill, which was preimbursed by UH, only to have the hotel call the university saying they never got a payment. The Palms is having a collection agency go after the funds.
The university says it’s been hurt by Arnold’s actions and breaches of duty, and seeks punitive damages and even civil penalties of “an amount to be proven at trial.” It also wants the money for the hotel room.
Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA) was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
James Bickerton, attorney for Gib Arnold:
“It’s clear that UH is getting desperate. They’re about three quarters of the way of the grievance process and they don’t like the way it’s going, so they’re trying to change the forum.
But what’s going to happen is we’ll go to court and the court is gonna tell them you have to stay in [the] grievance process. This is a labor agreement. Coach Gib is a member of the HGEA. The contract is signed by the HGEA 41 and it has to be arbitrated in a labor agreement. It can’t be settled in court. So this whole lawsuit, [there] is no jurisdiction for it. It has to be dismissed.
But they’ll get a few days out of the publicity cycle and they’ll get to smear Gib a little bit before the NCAA hearing next month and I think that’s the main goal here.
We do think there is no basis and this just happening [after] last week someone tried to take the HSTA to court, teachers union, over the election and the court told them we don’t have jurisdiction here. This is a labor matter. You have to go the Labor Board and that’s exactly what UH has to do in their dispute over Gib’s contract.
But they don’t like the way that its going. As I said, we’re about three quarters of the way through and it’s not going the way they want it to so they’re now trying to shift over to the courthouse and that’s not going to help them.
We’re very confident he will collect the $1.4M because that’s what the contract says he’s entitled to and you’ll notice that tonight, up until now, the UH says well we disagree on the interpretation of the contract. They’re not saying that anymore. They’re saying this provision that we drafted is unenforceable because it’s a penalty and that’s a different interpretation than they had before.
So they’re no longer disputing what the contract said, they’re now just saying that its not enforceable. But those kinds of clauses are always enforced so we are very confident that we’re gonna prevail.”