Monday, February 14, 2011

Bill for SDSU v. David Ohton whistle-blower case: $1.87 million

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Bill for SDSU whistle-blower case: $1.87 million
Attorney for ousted football strength coach says he offered to settle for no money
San Diego Union-Tribune
By Brent Schrotenboer
February 14, 2011

Gordon & Rees Law Firm
* 2004: $200,741.66
* 2005: $236,898.46
* 2006: $65,386.80
* 2007: $129,501.57
* 2008: $182,409.90
* 2009: $73,577.35
* 2010: $23,294.03
* Total: $911,809.77

Kirby Noonan Lance & Hoge Law Firm
* 2010: $293,530.50
* 2011: $55,887.24
* Total: $350,417.74

Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek Law Firm
* 2004: $231,577.51
* 2005: $233,922.32
* 2006: $176.31
* Total: $465,676.14

Horvitz & Levy Law Firm
* 2010: $123,415.86

Vendors such as court reporters
* 2004: $14,773.87
* 2005: $4,208.75
* 2006: $996.60
* Total: $19,979.22

Source: CSU billing summary

The California State University System rang up $1.87 million in legal bills to fight a whistle-blower lawsuit filed by a former San Diego State football strength coach in 2004.

The system last month decided to end the case by agreeing to pay the coach, David Ohton, a $2.7 million settlement. That means the total cost of the case for the CSU was $4.57 million — an expense that comes amid state budget cuts and dwindling resources for state colleges...

Ohton’s attorney said he initially offered to settle the case for an apology and restoration of his coaching assignment — and no money — and was told no.

Marlene Jones, in-house counsel for the university system, said $1.35 million of the $4.57 million will be paid from a self-insured “risk pool,” which comes from taxpayer money. The rest, she said, would be paid by insurance. She said the legal department is frugal and cautious about expenses after hiring outside firms.

Some still questioned how the case was handled.

“They spent $1.9 million to defend it and ended up worse off than they were in the beginning,” said Dale Larabee, an attorney who followed the case but was not involved in it. “Especially when it’s taxpayer money, you would think they would use a little bit more rational sense to resolve this rather than turning it into a matter of principle.”

Four outside firms were used for the case, one of which — Gordon & Rees — billed the university $911,810 from 2004 to 2010.

Ohton filed suit in 2004, claiming he was removed as football strength coach in 2003 after assisting with a CSU audit that found mismanagement in SDSU’s athletic department. He was given lower-profile assignments, but never fired, and he will leave SDSU employment as part of the settlement.

The audit led to the ouster of Athletic Director Rick Bay and three other athletics employees. Ohton said he was illegally retaliated against and ostracized by head football coach Tom Craft.

Ohton filed suit under the California Whistle-blower Protection Act. Jones, who started overseeing the case in 2007, said that it dragged on largely because of the relative lack of legal precedent under that law...

Lawyer linked to SDSU case
He represented a potential friendly witness to strength coach
February 24, 2011

The Watchdog on Feb. 15 printed a story adding up the tab to defend San Diego State University against whistle-blower claims by former football strength coach David Ohton.

The story quoted Dale Larabee as “an attorney who followed the case but was not involved in it,” and he criticized the university’s handling of the case.

Attorneys for the university took issue with that wording.

Although Larabee didn’t work for either side in the case, and his name wasn’t in the public case file, attorneys for SDSU consider him “involved” because Larabee was the attorney for a potential witness subpoenaed by the university. The witness never testified. University attorneys saw the potential witness as friendly to Ohton, especially since Ohton said in a deposition that the potential witness, Courtney Bale, was godmother to his son.

Bale had won her own settlement from the university in 2009, for $150,000. Ohton won $2.7 million.

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