Today, the Claims Review Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council voted unanimously to uphold an Arkansas State Claims Commission decision to award $150,000 in damages to SportsStarManagement. The sports marketing compnay originally sought $1.5 million from the University of Central Arkansas, after its three-year contract with the university was cancelled. UCA claims the company didn't bring in enough revenue and the commission they charged for athletic sponsorships was too high.
In the process, the university's lawyer got a hiding from legislators for poor work on the contract, a legacy of Lu Hardin's days as UCA president.
Richard Donovan, an attorney for SSM, said his client had suffered significant financial damages, including the loss of a substantial portion of his retirement, due to the cancellation of the contract. The company says it invested over $200,000 in the business - the rest of the $1.5 million sought was for unrealized profits. UCA appealed the Claims Commission decision to award $150,000 and lost that appeal today. The state can't be sued, but the Claims Commission allows a way to pay for damages by state agencies. The legislature still controls the purse strings on payments approved by the commission.
The university claimed that the contract was invalid because it was signed by then-athletic director Vance Strange, and not the president of the university at that time, Lu Hardin. Legislators asked if Strange had signed other contracts on behalf of the university and Tom Courtway, university counsel for UCA, said he had.
Legislators, led by committee chair Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, then grew somewhat agitated, asking Courtway how this contract was allowed to go through without proper approval. Courtway was apologetic, saying on numerous occasions, "This was not my best day's work." He said he assumed Strange had consulted with Hardin about the contract and said there was no policy regarding who had the authority to sign contracts at that time, something he corrected while serving as UCA's interim president.
Sen. Sue Madison, after saying that she saw no advantage to UCA in cancelling the contract, made a motion to uphold the decision to award $150K in damages.