Lawyer: Chatman Did Not Freely Resign

Tuesday, April 17th 2007, 7:42 pm

By: News On 6

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ Pokey Chatman was given two hours to resign or be fired, says her attorney, arguing the former Louisiana State University women's basketball coach is entitled to damages and compensation for the final two years of her contract.

``I don't believe her consent to the resignation was fairly obtained or freely given,'' attorney Mary Olive Pierson said.

In an April 13 letter to LSU general counsel Raymond Lamonica, Pierson wrote Chatman will sue the university if an amicable resolution cannot be reached. Pierson valued the remainder of the contract at $850,000 to $900,000 but did not specify damages.

Chatman resigned March 7, after assistant coach Carla Berry raised allegations of improper conduct with a former player or players.

``You stated that the reason for the demand/request,'' Pierson wrote in the April 13 letter to Lamonica, ``was based upon information which you had received from assistant coach Carla Berry regarding stories of unspecified and undefined relationships between coach Chatman and former players when coach Chatman was an assistant coach and prior to the date of her contract as head coach.''

LSU has confirmed Berry, who resigned last Friday, reported multiple allegations against Chatman, who became head coach in 2004.

In that April 13 letter, Pierson contends Lamonica did not question Chatman about Berry's allegations or try to identify the people Berry mentioned.

``You admitted to me you had not even spoken to anyone who was allegedly involved in those stories and you were not aware of anyone who had made a complaint to the university,'' Pierson wrote in the letter made available to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Senior associate athletic director Herb Vincent has said the school's inquiry ended when Chatman resigned.

The letter also outlined Pierson's contention that Chatman resigned under duress and through misrepresentation of university policy.

Although Lamonica said LSU had an ``absolute zero tolerance policy'' forbidding relationships between coaches and athletes, no policy existed, Pierson said. LSU previously confirmed the university does not have such a policy.

``I believe that Coach Chatman's consent to the resignation can be vitiated because of the duress and the material misrepresentation about the existence of a policy at Louisiana State University,'' Pierson wrote. ``If we are successful in rescinding the resignation, it is our position that the termination is without cause under the terms of the contract. Therefore, LSU owes Coach Chatman the remainder of the compensation due to her pursuant to the contract for the next two years.''

When Chatman resigned, LSU agreed to pay her according to her current $400,000 per year contract _ including a $70,000 bonus for LSU advancing to the Final Four _ until the resignation becomes official April 30.

Chatman had two attorneys, Pierson and Nathan Fisher, representing her when she resigned, Lamonica said.

``They did represent her, and we believe the resignation is fully effective,'' he said.

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