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VonAppen must arbitrate dispute

April 15, 1999

Tsai Stephen, Staff

Fired Rainbow coach at odds with regents over amount of pay


Former University of Hawaii football coach Fred vonAppen’s contract dispute with the school’s Board of Regents must be settled through arbitration, Circuit Court Judge Gail Nakatani ruled yesterday morning.

Following Nakatani’s ruling, both sides agreed to allow lawyer Gerald Sekiya to serve as arbitrator. A pre-conference hearing, at which time arguments will be submitted, has yet to be scheduled.

In a lawsuit filed against the regents last month in Circuit Court, vonAppen charged that he has been inadequately compensated since being fired as UH’s head football coach last Nov. 30.

VonAppen, who has been paid a base salary of $103,000 a year on a contract that expires Dec. 1, 2000, claims he is entitled to an additional $50,000 a year – the amount he received last year for weekly radio and television shows during the football season.

VonAppen also opposes his assignment as a special assistant to the Honolulu Community College provost.

The regents claim that the radio and television contracts were on a year-to-year basis and not part of vonAppen’s guaranteed income. They also say there’s a reassignment clause in the contract extension vonAppen signed last year.

The regents filed a motion in Circuit Court asking that the matter be settled by an arbitrator – a clause that is included, they say, in the collective bargaining agreement between UH and the Hawaii Government Employees’ Association, the union that represents state workers.

Nakatani agreed, compelling both parties to take their case before Sekiya. Nakatani also denied vonAppen’s request to have the regents disclose their case at yesterday’s hearing. She said the regents’ arguments may be presented at the preconference arbitration hearing.

She also said vonAppen may ask the Circuit Court to rule on any claim that isn’t applicable to arbitration.

“All this does is the Court says we will proceed in arbitration and then if there’s some disagreement, we’ll come back to the Court,” said Guy Sibilla, vonAppen’s lawyer. “It doesn’t change the position we’ve taken all along.”

The regents’ attorney, Craig Shikuma, declined to comment. Lawyer Charlie Price, who represented vonAppen yesterday, said vonAppen would like to reach a buyout agreement with UH. “If he has to work for the money, he wants to know where he’s working and what his compensation is,” Price said.

If the reassignment clause is upheld, Price said, vonAppen’s preference would be to work in the UH athletic department. VonAppen currently is on vacation and hasn’t reported to his job at HCC.