Archive for Thursday, November 11, 2004

KU alumni group wants Williams lawsuit dropped

November 11, 2004


The Kansas University Alumni Association on Wednesday asked a judge to dismiss a $2.2 million breach-of-contract lawsuit filed by fired former director Fred Williams.

During an hourlong hearing in Douglas County District Court, an Alumni Association attorney said the law and the wording of Williams' contract required him to enter private arbitration behind closed doors -- not sue -- in the event of a job dispute. One goal of arbitration is to protect confidentiality and people's reputations.

"The case law is very strong in favor of arbitration," said attorney Larry Ward of the Kansas City, Mo., firm Shughart Thomson & Kilroy.

But Williams' attorney, Roger Stanton, said Williams' contract was void, and he pointed out the Alumni Association had said as much in some written arguments.

"It seems to me that you can't have it both ways," Stanton said. "You can't say, 'There's no contract' and 'Oh, by the way, we want to use part of this contract.'"

Williams, who was fired in May after holding KU's top alumni post for 21 years, filed suit this summer asking for salary and benefits through 2008, the year his contract was to expire.

Even if the contract still were valid, Stanton said, the part about arbitration is written in a "vague and confusing" way that, on close reading, doesn't require arbitration.

Judge Michael Malone said he needed more time to decide the matter.

When the alumni association filed a response to Williams' lawsuit in October, it claimed he had been warned to "cease his negative conduct" toward KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway and other university officials, among other reasons for the firing.

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