The lawyer representing NBA security director Kelley Hardwick in her employment discrimination suit against Geno Auriemma, the NBA and USA Basketball said Wednesday a possible trial might not take place for years.
“It could take two to three years for the case to be heard,” said Randolph M. McLaughlin, counsel for the New York law firm Newman Ferrara LLP. “There needs to be a discovery phase, we’ll need to bring Auriemma in, put him in a witness chair and take his deposition, along with those of any players who were present [since Auriemma’s hiring by USA Basketball in 2009].
“It can be a very nasty business. It [the suit] could be settled before [the London Olympics in August] but it all depends on what USA Basketball and the NBA want to do. I’m willing to have a conversation, but no one has reached out.”
Hardwick is claiming that her rebuff of an attempted kiss on the mouth from Auriemma in the hallway of a hotel in Russia in 2009 ultimately caused the UConn and OIympic coach to politic for her removal from Olympic women’s security detail for the London Games, a job she had held in both 2004 and 2008.
While it’s expected that NBA and USA Basketball attorneys will handle the defense, Auriemma’s personal attorney, Sol Kerensky, said Wednesday that his firm, Kahan, Kerensky and Capossella, will work in conjunction with the others.
“In the end, everything will come out,” Auriemma told SNY Tuesday night. “This issue is going to be dealt with by attorneys and people who live in that world. Me … my focus is making sure that everything that I do with my family, with my team at UConn, with my Olympic team and everything going forward that that’s my focus right now as opposed to anything else that might be going on.’’
Auriemma said there is nothing he can do to prevent how people may feel about him as a result of the suit.
“I think any time people are talking about you whether it’s good, whether it’s bad, whether they’re complimenting you or whether they’re criticizing you, I think all that has an affect on you and your friends and your family,” Auriemma said. “And I guess that’s just the price of being in the public eye in 2012 America.’’
In the lawsuit filed Monday, Hardwick claims that during a conference call March 22 with a number of league and arena security personnel, she was informed of her reassignment and told Auriemma requested it through USA Basketball CEO and Executive Director Jim Tooley.
Two days later, Hardwick was removed from her position.
A source close to USA Basketball told the Courant Monday that Hardwick’s reassignment resulted not from Auriemma’s insistence, but because of problems relating to her performance since Auriemma’s hiring.
McLaughlin says he has a letter from Tooley that praises Hardwick’s work performance, although he did not say when it was issued. Hardwick has held her job since 2002.
“She did not have a problem with USA Basketball until Geno showed up,” McLaughlin said. “So I ask myself, ‘Well then, what happened that caused this problem with a security professional, when there was no problem before. … We tie it to the incident in Russia and the things that followed. That is our opinion for what motivated this case.”
McLaughlin reiterated that Hardwick was intent to let the alleged incident with Auriemma in Russia to pass until she was informed on the conference call that the coach had played a role in it.
“She dealt with what happened in 2009 by reporting it to her superiors,” Hardwick said. “At that point, she felt she had taken care of it. She tried to move and perform her duties. It wasn’t until he [allegedly] decided to reach back and [impact] her job placement and interfere with her employment, that this has happened. [She felt] there was only one reason why he would be doing this and that was because he was embarrassed about that had happened that [night in Russia]. [She felt] he was trying to punish me for having the audacity to stand up to him.”
USA Basketball officials have maintained public silence since the suit was filed. Tuesday, spokesman Craig Miller told the Courant that USA Basketball would not divulge the reason for Hardwick’s reassignment since it would all be revealed “with due process.”
UConn spokesman Patrick McKenna said Wednesday that Auriemma would continue to withhold comment under instruction from USA Basketball. McLaughlin said Hardwick, who orignally told her story to The New York Times, also was not prepared to speak publicly Wednesday.
However, a source close to the situation has told the Courant that USA Basketball’s chances of using Hardwick’s job performance as a reason likely could be compromised by the lack of substantive evidence in her job file. Apparently, there is little or no official documentation that spells out problems with her work.
And should the case come to trial, it’s very likely, according to McLaughlin, that players long connected with Auriemma’s legacy at UConn will be asked to testify in an effort to further the prosectution’s case.
“If it’s true that she [Hardwick] said things [to USA players] that were inappropriate [about the operation of the team that may have given Auriemma reason to distrust her], then we need to find out which players they were and let’s talk to them.
“I am not aware of anything relating to that. And when she was told she would not continue with USA Basketball, in her current capacity, no one mentioned that to her.”
McLaughlin said state law allowed him to file the case in New York, despite Auriemma’s residency, simply because Hardwick lives in New York.
“There is a statute in New York called the “Long Arm Law” which allows, under certain circumstances, if someone causes injury to some in the state, to reach out and bring them back in,” he said.
McLaughlin also said there was a reason no complaint was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC] prior to the suit being filed, which is normally customary.
“Under EEOC law, the plaintiff has 300 days after the event of discrimination to file a complaint with the agency to file a suit,” McLaughlin said. “But under New York state and New York City law, I don’t have to file before an agency. I can go straight to the court and go back three years [bypassing the normal statute of limitations]. I can go all the way back to 2009.”
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