Friday, August 5, 2011

KU officials decide not to pursue civil lawsuit against defendants convicted in athletic ticket scandal


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.


Janet Scott 8 years, 9 months ago

Not financially feasible?! Ridiculous! The saga and drama played out in a court room, when put to paper in the form of a soap opera script, would be worth millions of $ to KU, with all the channel networks clamoring to buy that script. Shoot, maybe a premier Hollywood movie could be crafted from this sordid affair. Who would play Kassie? Rosanne Barr comes to mind. Who would play the Blubaughs? Two Sumo wrestlers? Absolutely; perfect casting! And Ben? Perhaps Robert DiNero. And Rod? Charlie Sheen would be perfect in that role!! Lew would play himself, for sure: in the lead role of Lord Lew of Lawrence, Emperor of KU Athletics.

Hot dang, I see a money maker here! What do you say, Bernadette GL? Go for it!

Dyrk Dugan 8 years, 9 months ago

this will haunt us, and will be a financial burden on us, for a long time.

riverdrifter 8 years, 9 months ago

Eh, not so much on both accounts, really.

Steve Jacob 8 years, 9 months ago

Can the insurance company go after them?

Funhawk 8 years, 9 months ago

Yes, after an insurance company pays for an employee theft claim, the insurance company always goes after the guilty party in order to get back the money they paid their insured.

mikehawk 8 years, 9 months ago

At this point it is just about retribution and money if we go after them further. It would be about keeping it on the front pages indefinitely rather than letting it drift into the history books and moving on. Out of sight is out of mind. Every story about this reminds donors of lack of oversight, mismanagement, an AD office out of control, scams, etc. If it is oversight and management stories in the media, it should be more about the review of AD office salaries, right-sizing of administrative management, good business practices, etc., not about a nasty black eye that needs to be allowed to heal. Justice has been served. Let's move on allowing the negative PR to stop. Good decision.

100 8 years, 9 months ago

Not only is mikehawk fun, mikehawk is right!

Catalano 8 years, 9 months ago

Oh yes, let's do move on and let Lew Perkins skate.

BlackVelvet 8 years, 9 months ago

And since they'll not get back all that they lost, they can increase ticket prices to make up the difference. Brilliant, simply brilliant. KU gets dumber and dumber every year.

BlackVelvet 8 years, 9 months ago

Why would KU need to consult "outside counsel" when they have attorneys in the general counsel's office? Oh, are they not capable of filing a civil suit? I am always at a loss to understand why, if a company has lawyers on staff (salary) why it's so darned expensive for them to pursue a litigation. Why hire outside counsel if you have lawyers already on the payroll?

Kelly Hanrahan 8 years, 9 months ago

Just because someone graduated from med school doesn't mean they are a brain surgeon. Just because someone graduated from law school and passed the bar exam does not mean they are a qualified prosecutor in a civil action. One of the most important things that anyone can learn is to know when to ask for an expert's advice when they are confronted with something that is out or their normal realm of expertise. KU does not file civil lawsuits of this type on a regular basis - so they consulted with someone that does.

bluebeard 8 years, 9 months ago

they're going to let a band of thieves that burned them for 2 mil slide when just yesterday they drug a small business owner threw the court, until he had to close shop in bankruptcy. all for selling a blue t-shirt with white letters ku sucks

happyrock 8 years, 9 months ago

Odd. There is no logical explanation for this. The Chancellor is living up to her reputation as an idiot.

jayhawk2062 8 years, 9 months ago

The legal fees to recover the money would be astronomical and the likelihood of them recovering more money from people that will never be hired again at any job of note is 0%.

I think it is unfortunate, but a good business decision by the department and the university.

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