Friday, July 23, 2010

KSU attorney: Hasty changes made in Prince deal

Jacque Butler represented K-State in contract negotiations

By Austin Meek

July 22, 2010

Between the dentist's office and the ultrasound appointment, Jacque Butler had one more errand to run.

Butler, an attorney who represented Kansas State University in negotiations with former football coach Ron Prince, testified that she removed key safeguards from Prince's contract during a hurried lunch break without considering the potential ramifications.

"I was directed to make specific changes and I just didn't consider what those were," Butler said during a May 12 deposition obtained by The Topeka Capital-Journal.

Those changes allowed for the creation of Prince's $3.2 million memorandum of understanding, the agreement at the heart of K-State's legal battle against its former coach. Prince was fired in November 2008, months after he signed a new five-year contract and the controversial buyout addendum.

K-State has filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the separate buyout agreement, arguing that former athletic director Bob Krause acted outside his authority in contract negotiations.

Butler, Krause and other university officials provided depositions in April and May. Attorneys for both sides were scheduled to make oral arguments in Riley County District Court this week, but the hearing was postponed when District Judge Meryl Wilson recused himself from the case.

The case has been reassigned to District Judge David Stutzman, who issued the 2002 ruling that allowed 580 WIBW Radio to retain rights to K-State football broadcasts.

According to Butler's deposition, Krause directed her to remove several clauses from Prince's proposed contract in August 2008, days before Prince signed the contract and separate buyout agreement. Butler removed language that established Prince's public contract as the "entire agreement between the parties" and the "full settlement of any claim that coach might otherwise assert against the university."

Butler testified that she wasn't given a reason for the changes and didn't discuss the revisions with anyone at the time.

"I think I made them over a noon hour as I was going from one appointment to the other," she said.

In doing so, Butler admitted she functioned "more like a legal secretary" than an attorney representing K-State in contract negotiations. Butler also acknowledged that, by not considering the impact of the changes, she "probably did not" serve the university as well as she could have.

"I think had I considered it, I probably would have talked to someone about it, but I didn't," Butler said.

Butler, who is no longer employed by K-State, had no further comment when reached Thursday at the office of her current employer, the law firm Smith, Burnett and Larson in Larned.

K-State attorneys have argued that Neil Cornrich, Prince’s agent, was instructed by former athletic director Tim Weiser to deal only with Butler in contract negotiations. But Krause testified that he preferred to deal with the agent directly, and Butler acknowledged she was aware of conversations between Krause and Cornrich.

At Krause's request, Butler e-mailed drafts of Prince's employment agreement to Cornrich, Krause, university president John Wefald, deputy athletic director Jim Epps and associate athletic director Bob Cavello on July 31, 2008, a week before the contract was signed.

"These drafts reflect the changes that you have discussed with Mr. Bob Krause," Butler wrote to Cornrich, using language proposed by Krause. "Mr. Krause will be calling you to discuss these drafts and KSU looks forward to finalizing this matter in the near future."

Attorneys asked Butler if the e-mail represented implicit permission for Krause and Cornrich to speak directly.

"I don't know know that that was my thought process at the time," Butler said.

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