2003 - 2004
April 28, 2004
City added to lawsuit by ex-coach
Greensboro aided an effort by the Generals' owner to avoid paying a court judgment, the suit claims.
BY MATT WILLIAMS
GREENSBORO - The city of Greensboro has been added as a defendant in a lawsuit claiming that its management of the Greensboro Generals hockey team defrauded a former coach of back pay owed to him.
The lawsuit is an effort to collect a $109,752 court-ordered judgment that former Generals coach Jeff Brubaker won against the Generals' holding company in 2003. Court filings allege that the city-owned Greensboro Coliseum and two local businessmen, Don Brady and Bill Black, conspired with the team's original owner, Art Donaldson, to avoid paying the judgment by shifting the team's assets through five entities.
A summons was issued to Mayor Keith Holiday on May 14.
Deputy City Attorney Terry Wood said the city received the complaint and that the claim was "without merit."
"What we see here is just totally baseless," Wood said.
Coliseum managing director Matt Brown said the case is "an obstruction to keep us from our goal to keep hockey in Greensboro."
But Councilman Don Vaughan, an attorney, said it makes sense that the city would be a party in the case because it is now managing the team.
"If I were the trial lawyer, I would add the city. It would be malpractice not to," Vaughan said.
The case stems from a lawsuit filed by Brubaker in 2001 claiming that he was wrongfully fired as coach after leading the minor-league hockey team for its first two seasons. In January 2003, a jury ruled in favor of Brubaker, awarding him $109,752 for the salary he would have earned in the final year of his contract.
A judge ordered the Generals' holding company, Greensboro Professional Sports, to pay the judgment, but authorities were unable to collect the money.
According to court documents, shortly after Brubaker was fired, Donaldson shifted the responsibility for running the team from Greensboro Professional Sports to another company he formed, Piedmont Professional Sports. Later, Greensboro Professional Sports transferred its ECHL franchise to a third holding company owned by Donaldson, Triad Professional Sports. Because of the transfers, GPS didn't have any assets to pay the court judgment.
Chart Courtesy of the News & Record
After learning of the transfers, Brubaker filed a second lawsuit last March naming Donaldson, the three holding companies and minority owners Rocco Scarfone and Allen Steele as defendants and said the transfers were a "subterfuge" to evade responsibility for paying the judgment. Scarfone and Steele have since been dropped as defendants in the suit.
The coliseum became involved a year ago, when Brown worked out an agreement in which Donaldson's Triad Professional Sports would lease the team to a company headed by Brady and Black called the Generals Brigade. Brady and Black then turned over responsibility for operating the Generals to the coliseum for this past season.
Under the agreement, the city is responsible for all the team's expenses and collects all its revenues. Brady and Black's ownership group has also pledged to contribute $200,000 toward the cost of operating the team.
In February, North Carolina Business Court Judge Ben Tennile urged Brady, Black and the city to join settlement talks to resolve the suit. But the parties refused because they weren't officially named in the suit Brubaker's attorney, Ervin Brown, then decided to add the city, Brady and Black to the suit.
The summons comes as the City Council is to decide in the next month whether it should operate the team for another year.
Brown committed the team to the ECHL for another season and is negotiating with coach Rick Adduono to renew his contract, but the council has yet to authorize Brown to run the team past June 30.
Black said he and Brady had been served papers in the suit but declined to comment. Brady also declined to comment.
"We'll be watching with interest, but until we get our legal situation resolved, there's not anything we can say," Black said.
Contact Matt Williams at 373-7004 or firstname.lastname@example.org