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NBA Union Boss Hunter Should Be Fired, Ex-Treasurer Says

NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter
National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter speaks at a press conference in New York. Photographer: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Pat Garrity, a former National Basketball Association players’ union treasurer who was ignored four years ago when he questioned the organization’s business practices, says it’s hard to see how Executive Director Billy Hunter will keep his job.

A report released on Jan. 17 by the New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison said Hunter placed personal interests ahead of the association, mismanaged conflicts of interest and failed to disclose that his $3 million-a-year contract wasn’t properly ratified.

“If this was any CEO of a decent-sized organization, would they be able to survive this?” Garrity, who graduated from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business after leaving the NBA in 2008, said in a telephone interview. “I just don’t see how they would.”

Hunter, 70, was placed on indefinite leave by the union’s executive committee last week. Players probably will vote on whether to keep Hunter, a former federal prosecutor who has led the association since 1996, during the Feb. 15-17 All-Star weekend in Houston.

Garrity said he’s gratified that his concerns are finally being addressed.

“Four years ago, there was enough stuff to raise questions about judgment and ethics,” he said. “It’s disappointing that it took another level of egregiousness for people to start taking notice.

Union President Derek Fisher pushed for a review of the association’s business and hiring practices, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan started an investigation of the union after Fisher pressed for the review.

Union Meeting

Garrity said Fisher was among the players who stood by at the 2009 All-Star Game as Gary Hall, the union’s late general counsel, told Garrity that he was retired, not an active executive committee member and his input wasn’t welcome. Ultimately, Hall told Garrity that security would remove him if he didn’t leave.

‘‘I wanted to raise questions, but was met with zero cooperation,” the 36-year-old Garrity said. “There was no support from the people on the executive committee. When you have an officer and he asks the executive director for information and he’s shut out, that’s inappropriate. When one officer brings concerns to the others on the committee, you assume others would want to hear. That was not the case, including Derek.”

Fisher didn’t respond to an e-mail to his publicist seeking comment on Garrity’s remarks.

Attorney’s Stand

Hunter didn’t respond to a text message seeking comment. His attorney said after the leave of absence was imposed that it’s questionable whether the executive committee has the authority to take such an action.

“We believe his contract is valid and we will soon offer a comprehensive rebuttal,” attorney Thomas Ashley said in a statement.

Garrity said there were a number of red flags years ago, including Hunter’s request for vacation pay, the hiring of the executive director’s daughter and a proposed investment in a bank whose directors included Hunter’s son. Hunter hadn’t disclosed his son’s position with the bank, Garrity said.

“My intent at the time was just to raise it to the committee, figure out what’s true and what’s a concern,” he said. “We never got to that point because they weren’t interested in hearing it.”

Family Purge

Hunter purged family members from the organization, including his daughter and daughter-in-law, on Jan. 29. He also fired Prim Capital, which employs his son.

Garrity said there were a number of things in the 229-page report that were new to him. He wasn’t specific.

“My intent wasn’t to smear Billy,” Garrity said. “I wasn’t trying to carry out a personal vendetta. I’m glad the problems have been identified. They can fix it and improve.”

Ron Klempner, the union’s deputy general counsel, was appointed by the executive committee to run the organization on an interim basis.

Garrity said no one from the union has contacted him since the report’s release.

“I don’t think anyone has my number,” he said.

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