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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mediator to hear Jones' dispute

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

June Jones

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Virginia Hinshaw

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Clyde Matsui, who helped settle the Bishop Estate trustees conflict and several other high profile issues, begins hearing the contract dispute between the University of Hawai'i and former head football coach June Jones today.

Under terms of Jones' last contract with UH, the parties were to go to "final and binding arbitration" to settle the differences arising out of UH's demand for liquidated damages following his departure for Southern Methodist University in January.

But Gregg Takayama, spokesman for the UH-Manoa Chancellor's Office, said, "Jones requested, and the Chancellor (Virginia Hinshaw) agreed to, mediation prior to a 'final and binding arbitration.' If the parties cannot resolve the matter in mediation, then the parties will proceed to arbitration."

Takayama said Matsui was chosen to hear the case and "a pre-mediation meeting is scheduled for (today). Mediation begins on June 9."

Matsui, 60, a prominent attorney, is a UH graduate and Warrior sports fan.

UH has asked Jones to pay liquidated damages of $400,008 half his annual UH paycheck for terminating a five-year agreement before its contracted June 30, 2008 expiration date.

Jones left UH six days after the Warriors' Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia to become head coach at SMU, where he reportedly more than doubled his annual UH pay of $800,016.

A clause in his last UH contract, signed in 2003, provides for $400,008 in liquidated damages "if he terminates this agreement prior to June 30, 2008." Though Jones received $800,016 per year from UH, the school said half of it was paid by donations.

The contract specifies payment within 60 days of departure, meaning it was due March 7, 2008.

But Jones' agent, Leigh Steinberg, has maintained, "We had an explicit agreement with (ex-athletic director) Herman Frazier that, after three years, there would be no penalty if coach Jones were to leave the university. If that were not the case, coach Jones would always honor a contractual obligation."

Moreover, Steinberg said he has e-mails reaffirming the agreement.

UH has claimed the original contract is unchanged with no record on file allowing an early exit without liquidated damages. Frazier was terminated a day after Jones' departure to SMU.

UH notes the contract "...may be amended only in writing signed by both parties."

The contract says an arbitrator's fee will be shared and each party is responsible for their own attorney fees.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com.