The attorney representing National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter challenged a five-player committee's decision to place him on indefinite leave Friday, saying the body's authority to act was not supported by the union's constitution and bylaws.
"I am deeply troubled by the lack of fundamental fairness shown my client by a group whose authority to take such action is highly questionable," attorney Thomas Ashley said. "The act of placing my client on administrative leave is not supported in either the Constitution or Bylaws of the NBPA.
"Furthermore, Mr. Hunter was not given any opportunity to respond to the Paul, Weiss report prior to the time that a decision was made to place him on administrative leave," the lawyer said.
Ashley asserted that Hunter's contract, disputed by a massive report by the Paul-Weiss law firm because it was not voted on by the union's board of player representatives, is valid.
"We will soon offer a comprehensive rebuttal and explanation with respect to the allegations mentioned in the letter and report," Ashley said.
Hunter, 70, was placed on indefinite leave Friday after a unanimous vote by five interim executive committee members, according to a news release distributed by union president Derek Fisher. It was Fisher's complaints about the finances and business practices of the union after last season's lockout that led to a nine-month review by the Paul-Weiss law firm, which published its 469-page findings Jan. 17.
The members of the committee voting to place Hunter on leave were Fisher, Chris Paul, James Jones, Matt Bonner and Roger Mason Jr. -- the only active NBA players on the committee that joined Hunter in negotiating on the players' behalf during the lockout.
The NBPA's constitution and bylaws do not set forth a procedure for the removal of an executive director, though the hiring of one -- and approval of his contract -- must be approved by two-thirds of the 30 player representatives and two-thirds of the nine executive committee members. The Paul-Weiss review uncovered that Hunter's 2010 contract extension was not voted on by the player reps, and therefore the law firm recommended that the players are under no obligation to honor it.
The union's constitution and bylaws do seem to give the executive committee authority to act as it sees fit in the interests of the players as long as a majority of committee members -- five out of nine -- vote and a majority of those approve the actions. Motions to place Hunter on leave, appoint deputy general counsel Ron Klempner as acting executive director and form an advisory committee to help the players conduct elections and other union business at All-Star weekend in Houston later this month were approved 5-0 by the interim committee, Fisher's news release stated.