Kansas University officials won’t file a civil lawsuit against former athletic department employees who stole $2 million in a football and basketball ticket scheme, a KU spokesman said Friday.
“The cost of pursuing civil litigation against the ticket conspirators really outweighs the benefits to the institution,” said Tim Caboni, KU’s vice chancellor for public affairs. “We checked with our outside counsel. They understood, and they agreed with us.”
A federal judge has sentenced four former Kansas Athletics Inc. employees — Ben Kirtland, Rodney Jones, Charlette Blubaugh and Kassie Liebsch — and one department consultant, Tom Blubaugh, to federal prison after their guilty pleas in the cash-for-tickets scam that took place from 2005 to 2010 and rocked the university.
Caboni said Friday that KU had already recovered nearly $430,000 through an insurance claim and what was ordered as part of the criminal case.
“Federal prosecutors are doing a great job both identifying and recovering the assets,” he said. “The time and the expense that it would take for us to pursue that (civil) case, it would far outstrip any funds that we would recover. Truly we are focused on the future and what we have to accomplish to be successful going forward.”
He said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little made the decision to forgo a civil suit and that she informed the Kansas Board of Regents.
Caboni said KU had collected $250,000 from the university’s insurance policy for theft. KU has recovered about $180,000 from the former employees in connection with the judgment in the criminal cases.
Included in that, the Journal-World reported in May that Kirtland, an associate athletic director under former Athletic Director Lew Perkins, had paid $64,500 as part of a civil settlement with the athletic department in 2010. U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown also ordered Kirtland to be responsible for paying up to $1.2 million to KU and another $85,000 to the IRS.
Federal prosecutors said there was no evidence Perkins participated in the scheme. Perkins resigned from KU in September 2010, one year earlier than he initially planned.
Caboni said KU will continue to garnishee property and wages as necessary based upon Brown’s restitution order in the criminal cases.
KU had recovered less than $25,500 through May in payments and wage garnishments from Jason Jeffries and Brandon Simmons, two former lower-level department employees who pleaded guilty to not alerting authorities to the scheme. Both men are on probation.
Gray-Little and new Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger, who was hired in January, have said that whatever funds KU recovers would be directed to the benefit of student-athletes just as the stolen ticket money would have been.