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Billy Hunter’s actions deemed wrong, not criminal
NEW YORK (AP) - NBA players should consider whether they want to keep Billy Hunter as executive director of the players’ association after a series of wrongdoings, according to a review of the union released Thursday.
The report found no evidence of illegal use of union funds, but revealed that Hunter withheld knowledge that his contract was never properly approved, used poor judgment with his hiring practices and spent improperly on travel and gifts.
The eight-month review by the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP urged players to consider Hunter’s position when they meet next month at the All-Star break.
“Based on the findings of this report, the NBPA should consider whether Mr. Hunter should remain as the Union’s Executive Director and whether new and more effective controls should be enacted to govern the NBPA, its Foundation and its Executive Director, whoever that may be,” the report said.
Hunter, 70, said in a statement that he looks forward to continuing his work with the NBPA and was pleased the report found he did nothing illegal.
The report states that Hunter’s actions were “inconsistent” with his financial obligations to the union and “paid little attention to the appearance of impropriety.” It adds that “his conduct could foreseeably create and did not properly manage conflicts of interest.”
Because Hunter’s $3 million per year contract, signed in 2010 and to run through either 2015 or 2017, was never properly approved, the report finds that players are under no obligation to keep him. If they do, they can either do so under the current terms or may wish to hire independent counsel to negotiate new terms.
According to the report, Hunter was aware by at least November 2011 that the executive committee and player representatives had not approved the deal according to union bylaws.
“Regarding my contract _ my third in a long tenure of the organization _ it was ratified by the NBPA Executive Committee and signed by president Derek Fisher,” Hunter said. “I believe the contract and extensions are valid. I am pleased to discuss with the player representative board any concerns about my contract.”
The review was sought in part by Derek Fisher, the union president who clashed with Hunter during and after the NBA lockout that lasted from July through November 2011.
“As there is an ongoing investigation by the government as well, I hope that this is a chance for us to become an upstanding, strong organization with the sole purpose of serving the best interests of current and future players,” Fisher said.
The report cites areas where Hunter should have known better, particularly when it came to hiring family members.
The union either employed or worked with many people who had ties to Hunter, who hired his daughter and nephew, permitted a daughter-in-law to remain on staff, and spent more than $80,000 of union funds to evaluate an investment in a banking firm that employed his son.
“No matter the explanation, when viewed collectively, his choices created the appearance that he operated the union in part for the benefit of his family and friends,” the report said.
“The appearance of favoritism has damaged the union. Mr. Hunter’s pattern of involving friends and family in union business contributed to a deep rift among the NBPA staff.”
By Donald Lambro
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