Hunter Says Ban From Addressing NBA Union on Fate Disturbing

Billy Hunter said he’s disturbed that he won’t be allowed to address National Basketball Association union members today when they determine his fate as executive director.

The former federal prosecutor was suspended with pay on Feb. 1 after a union-financed investigation found that he had put the interests of himself and his family ahead of those of the National Basketball Players Association.

“As we have all been taught from childhood, there is always another side to the story that should be evaluated in any circumstance and before any judgments are made or actions, once taken, cannot be reversed,” Hunter said yesterday in an online response to the investigation’s findings.

The 229-page report by the New York law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP, released last month, said the 70-year-old Hunter failed to manage conflicts and didn’t disclose that his $3 million a year contract wasn’t properly ratified.

It also said Hunter hadn’t done anything illegal. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan is investigating union practices.

The league’s 30 player representatives -- one from each team -- meet today in Houston during the All-Star break and may decide whether Hunter keeps his job.

Hunter’s response criticized Derek Fisher, the union’s president who last year called for an independent audit of the group’s business and hiring practices. His concerns led to the nine-month Paul, Weiss investigation and the federal probe.

Union spokesman Dan Wasserman declined immediate comment on the response, saying he hadn’t read it yet.

Ready Response

As part of the response, Hunter included a 15-slide PowerPoint presentation on what he would have said to the players had he been invited to address them at today’s gathering.

The union constitution requires a two-thirds vote of player representatives to approve an executive director. It doesn’t address how many votes would be needed to fire one. It is possible that players won’t vote on whether to fire Hunter since the Paul, Weiss report said his contract isn’t valid.

Atop the presentation, Hunter said the union, which was in debt when he took over in 1996, has net assets of more than $80 million today.

Hunter said he’s owed more than $10 million if dismissed. The Paul, Weiss report said the players have no obligation to pay him because the contract wasn’t properly ratified.

Two Years

One of Hunter’s lawyers, Corey Worcester of firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, said he “cannot see how anyone could argue that a signed contract that has been in effect for more than two years is invalid.”

The PowerPoint presentation offered a rebuttal of the Paul, Weiss report’s findings, including concern about Hunter’s contract and his decision to accept $1.3 million for unused vacation days.

The response said the responsibility for properly ratifying the executive director’s contract “rested squarely on the shoulders” of Fisher. Jamie Wior, a spokeswoman for Fisher, declined to comment on Hunter’s response in an e-mail.

The presentation also said Hunter was improperly placed on administrative leave.

The Paul, Weiss report found “an unacceptable pattern” of nepotism at the union, which since 2001 paid $4.8 million to Hunter’s family members and their professional firms according to a Bloomberg News report in April that cited public records.

Family Purge

Hunter purged family members from the association after the report was released. The response yesterday also said Hunter has ended the tradition of giving gifts to executive committee members.

Hunter spent more than $100,000 in union funds on luxury gifts, including a $22,000 Patek Philippe watch to Fisher, according to the Paul, Weiss report. Hunter’s response said no executive committee member returned the gifts.

Hunter also said his contract provided for payment of unused vacation days.

Union attorney Ron Klempner is serving as the association’s acting executive director.

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