Grier’s explanation to the OUS Chancellor and Board President

3/31/2010: FWIW, UO General Counsel and Oregon Special Assistant Attorney General Melinda Grier tries to explain things to the OUS Chancellor and Board President, prior to the board meeting tomorrow, which now has this item as #1 on the agenda. Her letter below is courtesy of the Oregonian. From my reading Grier is saying that there was a verbal agreement on a 3 year contract, but that no one will even claim that verbal agreement included any promise Bellotti would be paid anything if he stepped down voluntarily. As to how we got from story A to story B, well it certainly doesn’t make anyone look good, and it probably leaves Lariviere owing Grier one, which is real bad news for UO.

Grier now says:

“A spokesperson for UO misspoke when she told a reporter there had been conversations between Bellotti and Pres. Lariviere regarding Bellotti’s contract to assume the position of athletic director.” 

She’s talking about this statement (from an earlier RG story):

“Richard (Lariviere)’s decision was based on those conversations he had with Mike Bellotti in July,” (UO Spokesperson Julie Brown) said. “He also took into consideration the current circumstances with the ESPN opportunity as well as the contributions over the 20-plus years Mike Bellotti had at the athletic department.”

 That story also quotes Bellotti as saying

 that he had a “handshake agreement” with Kilkenny and Lariviere concerning the payout.
“There was never a written contract that I signed,” he said. “There were some oral agreements.” There were also some “bullet point agreements” with Kilkenny, Bellotti said, but he would not elaborate on them. 

Grier now says that handshake never happened but that Bellotti will get his money anyway. She also says:

Kilkenny had negotiated salary, and there seemed general agreement that Bellotti’s first-year salary April 2009 – March 2010 would be $975,000; thereafter, it would be $675,000 per year.

Which is weird because the official UO data here lists his fall 2009 salary as $350,000, plus another $325,000 in endorsement payments – not quite $975,000.

Grier is probably right in saying that the payoff money isn’t coming from taxpayer funds though. Apparently it’s coming from Knight’s Athletic Legacy fund. Of course, Frohnmayer told the faculty and the legislature that fund would be used as security for the $200 million in Matt Court bonds. See more from the excellent reporting of former UO undergrad Ryan Knutson, here.

March 31, 2010
George Pernsteiner
Chancellor, Oregon University System
111 Susan Campbell Hall
Eugene, OR 97403

Paul Kelly, Jr.
President, Oregon State Board of Higher Education
c/o Garvey Schubert Barer
121 SW Morrison Street, 11th Floor
Portland, OR 97212

Dear President Kelly and Chancellor Pernsteiner:

In recent days, there have been a number of reports in the media concerning the separation agreement reached between the University of Oregon and UO Athletics Director Mike Bellotti. I have prepared this memorandum and chronology of events in an effort to clarify the series of actions that led to the creation of this agreement.

In November 2008, Mike Bellotti expressed interest in exploring a potential transition from his position as Head Football Coach to the role of Athletic Director with Chip Kelly, then Offensive Coordinator, assuming the head coach position. President Dave Frohnmayer authorized then Athletic Director, Pat Kilkenny, to explore the possibility with Bellotti. Kilkenny had agreed to serve as athletic director through June 2009 but did not desire to extend his contract beyond that time.

Kilkenny and Bellotti explored the potential transition with Kelly who was interested. President Frohnmayer and Athletic Director Kilkenny announced the succession plan December 2, 2008. The date of the transition was agreed to be subject to Bellotti’s decision when he wished to step down as coach. Kilkenny and Kelly negotiated the terms of Kelly’s subsequent contract as head football coach, which they memorialized in a term sheet agreement signed in December 2008.

In March 2009, Bellotti indicated that he was considering stepping down as head football coach prior to the beginning of spring term. Bellotti decided to initiate the transition at that time, rather than waiting until 2010 or later, in order to make an announcement prior to the end of winter term so that the football players would learn of his decision before they left campus for spring break. Bellotti believed it was critical to inform the team of his decision before spring practice began. During the week of March 8, 2009, Bellotti talked with President Frohnmayer as he was making his decision, envisioning a meeting with the team Friday, March 13.

March 12, Bellotti informed Frohnmayer that he had decided to go forward with the transition.

Spring term was intended to be a transition period when Bellotti and Kilkenny could overlap and Bellotti would have a chance to orient himself to the athletic director position. Frohnmayer authorized Kilkenny to negotiate a salary for Bellotti. The first-year salary negotiated was intended to transition Bellotti from his compensation as head football coach, slightly over $1.9 million in 2008-2009, to his athletic director’s salary. Bellotti and Kilkenny agreed Bellotti would be paid $975,000 in salary during the first year (April 2009-March 2010). They discussed additional compensation during that first year only that would be equal to the difference between his salary of $975,000 and his previous year’s compensation.

When President Lariviere took office in July 2009, he assumed that contracts with Bellotti were in place and had no conversations with Bellotti about his contract. A spokesperson for UO misspoke when she told a reporter there had been conversations between Bellotti and Pres. Lariviere regarding Bellotti’s contract to assume the position of athletic director. During early winter, Bellotti told President Lariviere that ESPN had approached him to consider a position as a color commentator. Bellotti had provided color commentary on Oregon Sports Network UO football game broadcasts during the fall and had received acclaim for the excellent quality of his work. At this time, President Lariviere determined that it was in the university’s best interest to expedite this transition and find new leadership for the athletic department. He subsequently began to negotiate with Bellotti regarding the terms of their mutual agreement for Bellotti’s separation of service.

When I learned of their intent, I began in earnest to search for a term sheet or other memorialization of the terms of Bellotti’s agreement. I had previously made requests but had not received anything, although there seemed to be a general assumption that such a term sheet existed. The terms and conditions of all UO unclassified employees, including coaches, are covered by extensive Board Administrative Rules, UO Administrative Rules and policies. Most employees, including most coaches, receive an annual notice of appointment, which they are asked to sign and return. A few employees, including a few coaches whose employment agreements contain terms in addition to the standard terms and conditions, are given more extensive contracts in lieu of standard notices of appointment. Until those more extensive contracts are fully negotiated and executed, the terms of employment are those in Board and UO Administrative Rules and policies and provisions contained in the agreed to term sheets.

It became apparent that no one could produce a term sheet. Kilkenny had negotiated salary, and there seemed general agreement that Bellotti’s first-year salary April 2009 – March 2010 would be $975,000; thereafter, it would be $675,000 per year. There was not agreement regarding other terms or conditions. It was Bellotti’s belief that, during the first year of his contract (April 2009 – March 2010), he would receive the additional compensation equal to the difference between his previous and current year’s compensation. This belief seemed reasonable in the general context of the discussions that occurred in the spring of 2009.

There was not general agreement around other terms. Bellotti believed he was promised a five-year contract. Kilkenny was not authorized to negotiate the length of the agreement. Frohnmayer had no conversations with Bellotti regarding the length of his contract. I recalled general discussions, not necessarily with Bellotti, of a three-year term. Employment contracts longer than three-year’s duration require approval of Chancellor Pernsteiner. Our office was not asked, as would be standard, to prepare a request for Chancellor Pernsteiner’s approval. As a result, President Lariviere assumed a contract term of three years, of which, Bellotti had already served one year. The $2.3 million represents the two year’s salary remaining on a three year contract at $675,000 per year plus the additional first-year compensation that was as yet unpaid. A separation agreement containing those terms was signed by both parties and publicly disclosed upon its execution.

Although the sum paid to Bellotti is large, it represents an amount that is consistent with President Lariviere’s best assessment of what would be due Bellotti. This is especially true for a long-time employee such as Bellotti who has served with such distinction and who is held in high regard.

Some have raised concerns that taxpayer funds will be used to pay this settlement. That is not the case, nor will Athletic Department operating funds be used. The UO will rely solely on donor funds for the payments to Bellotti.

I also want to assure you that President Lariviere has made clear his expectation, which I strongly support, to make certain that any conditions beyond those contained in a standard notice of appointment will be memorialized in writing.

Sincerely,
Melinda W. Grier
General Counsel

Attorney General reviews Lariviere’s deal with Bellotti

3/29/2010: More on the verbal contract is here. Rachel Bachman of the Oregonian reports:

The Oregon Department of Justice is reviewing the resignation agreement between Mike Bellotti and the University of Oregon, a handshake-based deal that calls for $2.3 million in payments to the former Oregon athletic director.

The agreement was first reported by the Eugene Register-Guard on March 19, the day Bellotti announced he was leaving to take a job at ESPN. Oregon president Richard Lariviere signed it that day; Bellotti had signed it March 16.

Bellotti, who was to be paid $675,000 annually, did not have a written contract during the nine months he spent as athletic director. The departure agreement apparently also was unwritten until shortly before Bellotti resigned.

“A lot of issues, that among them, have been raised in the media,” said spokesman Tony Green of the Oregon Department of Justice. “At this point the attorney general doesn’t have any firsthand information about it, so that’s the purpose of the review.”  

 Mark Baker of the RG has a story on this as well.

As we wrote earlier, UO’s General Counsel Melinda Grier, who approved this sham, is also an Oregon Special Assistant Attorney General. Her husband Jerry Lidz is the Oregon Solicitor General. And Dave Frohnmayer is a former Oregon Attorney General. So it’s pretty safe to say current AG John Kroger is not going to do anything to clean up the situation here at UO.

3/25/2010: Steve Duin of the Oregonian gets the Oregon Attorney General’s office to comment on UO’s deal with Bellotti:

“As a general principle, the attorney general believes oral contracts are inconsistent with government transparency.”

No kidding. Of course UO’s General Counsel Melinda Grier, who approved this sham, is also an Oregon Special Assistant Attorney General. Her husband Jerry Lidz is the Oregon Solicitor General. And Dave Frohnmayer is a former Oregon Attorney General. So it’s pretty safe to say current AG John Kroger is not going to do anything to clean up the situation here at UO.

Paula Rogers case

2/19/2010: I got an extensive anonymous post in the comments section this morning from a Paula Rogers supporter. I don’t have any inside knowledge about this case, but the general pattern of retaliation – for which the jury awarded damages – and counterproductive behavior by the UO General Counsel’s office described here sure rings some bells. Frohnmayer kept Melinda Grier on because she was willing to hide things for him, and he had a lot to hide. Here’s hoping Lariviere soon decides he’d rather have someone competent as his lawyer.

Anonymous said…
The recent jury verdict related to charges of race-ethnic discrimination at the UO simply confirms the patterns of retaliation and hostile employee relations that are documented throughout this blog. My understanding of the situation is that Professor Rogers reported wrong-doing, including illegal discrimination, to University authorities. She then experienced systematic retaliation, ending in the termination of her contract. This termination was exacted in a highly irregular fashion and contrary to the vote of both the midterm review committee (including both departmental and external members) and her department. Until reporting the illegal discrimination all reviews of her work had been exemplary. The retaliation was clearly spearheaded by those who were the focus of the reports of discriminatory behavior.

This pattern of discrimination and, especially, retaliation has been repeated numerous times throughout the University. When challenged, the University, using the Attorney General’s office, spends inordinate amounts of money fighting charges of discrimination. (For instance, the state has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting this particular case and that is before payment of damages and legal costs to the plaintiff.) The administration also engages in extraordinary measures to harass those who dare to challenge them, with numerous and varied attempts to ruin reputations and financial standing of their challengers and their families and friends. Only a very few, brave people are ever able to withstand the onslaught and the deep – in fact virtually bottomless – pockets of the University and the state’s legal apparatus.

The UO’s approach to employees appears to involve fierce attacks on anyone who dares to question an administrative decision or to point out possible wrongdoing. One, now retired, administrator has been quoted as saying, “We’ll always fight as hard as we can against employees. Only a few people will have the energy to continue all the way against us. Even if we eventually lose a few cases, most people will be too scared to take it all the way, even if they have the law on their side. Thus we probably save money by playing hard ball.”

I’m not a lawyer, but I have been told that smart organizations approach employment relations in a manner exactly opposite to this. Smart organizations use employment lawyers to help them figure out how to conform to laws and regulations and obey employment related laws – not to harass and intimidate employees or to justify decisions and practices that are blatantly illegal. It is time that the UO entered the 21st century and began to do the same. They should reinstate Professor Rogers to her position and develop fair, non-discriminatory practices and procedures.

no bid contracts and the Arena

1/22/2010: An anonymous commentator pointed readers to this ODE story by CJ Ciaramella on no-bid contracts for the Arena. There’s another in the RG today:

I’d wondered what the story on that billboard on Franklin Blvd was. When someone rents a billboard to complain UO is not following the public records law it kind of gets your attention. The Director of the union group that erected it says of UO:

“The amount of time that it’s taken to get a public records request processed is far longer than we are used to dealing with,” Bonham said. “For this institution to be not completely transparent and forthcoming is a concern for the public.” The University general counsel’s office, which handles public records requests for the University, did not return calls seeking comment.

For the record, The UO official in charge of public record requests is Doug Park, dougpark@uoregon.edu, (541) 346-3082. Doug doesn’t sign his name to public records responses, and likes to use the email address gcounsel@uoregon.edu instead of his real one. I’m not sure if this is because he is embarrassed by what his boss Melinda Grier makes him do for a living, or is just trying to forestall an ethics investigation over the details.

I still remember the efforts to get a copy of this report on the arena revenue forecast from UO. Melinda Grier was trying to hide this report because its revenue forecasts were 1/3 of the 15 million needed to justify tax-exempt bonds. She and Doug Park stalled for months, ignored repeated emails and calls, and the Oregon DOJ played along with her efforts to keep this report secret. Finally it came out and we found this:

So the projection is for $4 million in net revenue, for $15 million per year bond repayments. When the State Treasurer’s office finally saw this report they refused to allow UO to sell the bonds as tax-exempt, because these numbers mean the IRS could have argued this was tax arbitrage, and imposed millions in penalties on UO. I wonder what Melinda is hiding this time?

OPB interview with Oregon Attorney General Kroger and UO Professor

12/5/2009: The OPB show “Think Out Loud” is doing a show Monday on the subject of access to public records. This is about AG Kroger’s new “Government Transparency” Initiative. Among other important reforms Kroger has appointed DOJ lawyer Michael Kron as “Government Transparency Counsel”. Kron’s job responsibilities include ensuring that UO Counsel Melinda Grier obeys the public records law. He will be a busy guy. The show will feature a discussion with Attorney General John Kroger and a UO Professor with considerable experience extracting public records from UO, and I am pretty sure it airs at 9 AM, or at least that’s when they told me to be in the studio.

Bonine v. Grier

12/4/2009: This brief from UO law professor John Bonine to President Lariviere takes on UO General Counsel Melinda Grier and her claim that the faculty’s role in university governance is limited to student discipline and the curriculum. Quoting,

It is important that the University Senate, members of the ad hoc Internal Governance Committee, and individual faculty members understand the legal basis for and extent of the faculty’s role in university governance. The letter from the university president’s General Counsel mischaracterizes both. In this memorandum I shall explain its errors. …

Of even greater importance, the letter completely fails to cite the statutory grant of authority to the faculty that is contained in ORS 352.010. Following that failure, the letter asserts that the faculty’s authority “is not stated in detail” and “is not well-defined.” Combined, the letter gives an impression of the faculty’s role in governance that is quite misleading, as will be explained in the next sections of this memorandum. …

To an incorrect premise—that the statutory basis for the faculty’s authority is undefined while the president’s is plenary—the letter adds another premise without explanation or support. It asserts that “historically the faculty’s authority has been over the curriculum and the discipline of the students.”3 This limited view is also in error, as will be explained below. …

President Lariviere, it’s time to get a new General Counsel, and John Bonine should be on the hiring committee.

AG John Kroger announces "Government Transparency" initiative

12/2/2009: Oregonian, RG, Jack Bog. This is – potentially – a very significant step towards the reform of Oregon’s public records process, and a nightmare for UO General Counsel Melinda Grier and her efforts to limit access to UO’s public records. From the ODOJ press release:

Attorney General John Kroger today announced a broad plan to improve government transparency in Oregon. “A democracy cannot properly function without strong open government laws,” said Attorney General Kroger. “We’ve implemented some immediate reforms that will improve transparency in state government. But I’m also committed to far greater changes.” Immediate changes include: Putting the 2008 Attorney General’s Manual on Public Records and Public Meetings online. Until now, the manual has been exclusively available in a hard copy at a cost of $25. Free online access will significantly increase its usefulness. … Attorney General Kroger also has created the Government Transparency Counsel, a new position in the Department of Justice designed to ensure that state government properly complies with state transparency laws.

The online PR manual appears to be the direct consequence of pressure from a UO Professor who “illegally” posted the manual online, and from Carl Malamud at Public Resource. Kroger has abandoned his efforts to claim copyright to this manual. The new “Government Transparency Counsel” (Michael Kron) has a great title and we hope will have the authority to overrule Melinda Grier’s efforts to keep public records from the public. We certainly intend to find out!

"Sparks fly at University Senate meeting"

11/12/2009: From CJ Ciaramella in the Daily Emerald on yesterday’s Senate meeting. Melinda Grier tries another end run around faculty governance. She and law professor John Bonine last tangled over the COC/COI issue. She lost. In fact, she loses every time she is challenged on something. Why hasn’t Lariviere fired her yet? Either he doesn’t realize how incompetent she is, or he supports her efforts to destroy any trust between the faculty and his new administration. The man has been on campus since April. There’s no good way to read this.

Questions arise over power struggle among senators, faculty and administration: CJ Ciaramella.

A legal opinion delivered by University General Counsel Melinda Grier to the University Senate led one incensed senator to consider arming the Senate with its own legal counsel at yesterday’s meeting.
The memo, delivered to the Senate the day before the meeting, suggests that Oregon Public Meetings Law may not apply to the body.
“In certain circumstances, the Oregon Public Meetings Law may by operation of law apply to the University Senate,” Grier said in the memo, “but in all others, it applies only to the extent the University Senate Charter self-imposes those requirements.”
However, the hullabaloo was not so much over the OPML as a perceived slighting of the Senate’s power. University Sen. and law professor John Bonine said the memo failed to cite the University’s charter, which he called the “key governing document of this University,” and misrepresented the Senate’s relationship with the administration.
“The fact is that power is split between the president and the Senate,” Bonine said.
However, Grier’s memo states that “the faculty, by statute, also has authority. While that grant is not stated in detail and its relationship with the president’s authority is not well-defined, historically the faculty’s authority has been over the curriculum and the discipline of the students.”
Grier went on to say, “it appears the University Senate’s authority is not express and is that authorized by the president subject to veto by the president.”
Bonine contends that the University Charter, which Grier never mentions by name, conflicts with her opinion.
The charter, found in ORS 352.010, reads, “the president and professors constitute the faculty of each of the state institutions of higher education and as such have the immediate government and discipline of it and the students therein.”
“To obtain a legal opinion that contains about as big of a legal error as I can imagine astounds me,” Bonine said.
Bonine verbally announced a motion at the meeting to provide the Senate with its own legal counsel and said he would officially produce a written motion sometime in the near future.

… More in the article, on voting for Senate VP.

Melinda Grier’s stupid union bashing tricks

10/14/2009: We’re genuinely neutral on the AAUP/AFT faculty union issue – we are still feeling this out – and so we feel able to make an unbiased comment on UO General Counsel Melinda Grier’s decision to refuse to allow the UO professors who support the union to distribute flyers to UO mailboxes, announcing a talk by several visiting professors from unionized campuses. See this CJ Ciaramella story in the ODE.

Melinda, are you really this stupid? The faculty is on the fence about a union. Lariviere seems pretty good so far and (almost) everyone is willing to give the guy a year or two to turn Frohnmayer’s legacy – a poisonous administration/faculty relationship – around. So what do you do? Remind us all of how petty, dictatorial, incompetent, and avaricious a bunch of administrative cronies Dave nourished during his 15 years here, and bring home the fact that so far Richard Lariviere has not got rid of a single one of them – including you. This one is good for 20 23 Union votes, easy. Good work.

President Obama and UO Matters

9/2/2009: Regular readers of UO Matters know that we spend a lot of time and money trying to pry public records from the cold grasping claws of UO General Counsel Melinda Grier and her Associate Counsel Doug Park. They resist, we appeal to Oregon Attorney General John Kroger. Sometimes he tells them to fork over the records before he has to make a formal ruling, sometimes he rules against us, sometimes we pay Doug a couple hundred bucks – a pittance, given our enormous Google ad revenue – and he sends a few pages of printout.

Once (so far) we had to make a federal FOIA for some UO records. The agency denied, we appealed, and so on. Then today, out of the blue, one of the UO Matters staff gets a phone call from a lawyer at the USDOJ Office of Information and something or another. A lady with an elegant southern accent, which really takes us back.

Lawyer: “We have reviewed your appeal, and have remanded your request to the relevant agency.”
UO Matters: “Shit! uh wait, what does remanded mean?”
Lawyer: “Sir, we’ve told them to send you the documents.”
UO Matters, “Sweet! uh wait, how much is this going to cost me?”
Lawyer: “If they try to charge you, or if there are unjustified redactions, call me.”
UO Matters: “I’ve been trying to get these for a year – what happened? Is this some Obama thing?”
Lawyer: “Yes. President Obama directed Attorney General Holder to change the way we interpret FOIA law. During our review, your appeal came up.”

I liked the way she said President Obama. You can read Holder’s memo here. It’s pretty impressive stuff. Of course, we still haven’t seen the documents.

Lawyer: “A few weeks. No, let’s set a deadline: You will have them by Sept 22.”

Now if we can only get Oregon’s Attorney General John Kroger to write that same memo to Melinda Grier!

Email from Associate AG David Leith re Grier Investigation

From: “Leith David” David.Leith@doj.state.or.us
Date: May 11, 2009 9:15:32 PDT
To: Professor X
Subject: RE:

Professor X,

I want to provide a clear statement of what we are willing to do.  I hope this will minimize the possibility of misunderstanding or surprise, and that it will give you the information you need to make an informed decision.

This proposal arises from my request at our May 5 meeting that we try to reserve some part of our focus to forward-going objectives, as opposed to retrospective matters.  Responsive to that request, you suggested that we all take a time-out, which I agreed sounded like a good idea.  Our resulting proposal is as follows:

We will not finally conclude our review of the allegations in your complaint against Melinda Grier until after August 1, 2009.  The draft letter that we shared with you would become our interim determination.  You could provide comments on our draft letter up until August 1, 2009, if you remain interested in actively pursuing the issue at that time.  If we receive comments, we would resume our review and complete it in due course.  If we do not receive comments, our interim determination presumptively would become final.

In the meantime, you would cease all public records requests and related petitions (withdrawing any pending requests or petitions), you would cease all complaints (including complaints about UO employees), and you would cease all other communications, including emails, to UO or other state officials.  (The scope of the time-out is in recognition of the fact that your zeal causes issues to become encompassing when they are entertained at all.  The idea is to provide all parties a much-needed opportunity peacefully to reflect.)

In the event that action is taken during the time-out that is inconsistent with these terms, the time-out would end and the constraint against issuance of our final determination before August 1 would be dissolved.  We would notify you that any information you would like to provide responsive to our interim determination would be due by a date certain one week following that notice, and we would issue our final determination in due course after that deadline.

These terms are set out more precisely than I would have preferred, but I believe the clarity is essential in these circumstances.  If you would prefer to forgo the time-out, that also is fine, of course.  I look forward to your decision.  Thanks, — Dave@doj.state.or.us>@doj.state.or.us>@doj.state.or.us>