The University of Arkansas Athletic Department today provided a copy of a severance agreement with Robert Pulliza, the women’s volleyball coach who resigned this week after allegations against him of abusive treatment of players.
It provides for a mutual release of liability and litigation by Pulliza and the university and provides Pulliza with $10,784.50 a month in severance pay through March 2017, or a total of $166,579. But he is required to seek other gainful employment and the compensation is to be offset by money he may receive. Severance amounts to continuation of his pay of about $129,000 a year, about 10 percent from the Razorback Foundation. The parties also agree not to disparage each other.
The payment says Pulliza will be paid from “private funds,” which means the money will come from the Razorback Foundation. It’s a private nonprofit whose records are out of public reach though its money comes primarily from income from rights to televise and advertise and market University athletics and from premium prices on seats at football and basketball games.
Athletic Department spokesman Kevin Trainor had originally responded to my FOI request by saying information was in active use or storage, a comment that raised a question of whether the UA was now following Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s belief that digital files could always be construed as in storage and subject to a three-day delay in release.
In providing the information today, Trainor elaborated:
Please note my previous response was intended to simply confirm your request while initiating the review for any potentially responsive documents. I later learned, at the time of your request, there was no written agreement with Coach Pulliza regarding his departure. Therefore, there was not a responsive document to provide.
We now have a written agreement “pertinent to conclusion of payments to him under his agreement with UA.” It is attached.
My formal FOI request was preceded a day earlier by a question of whether there was a severance agreement, a question that could have been answered with or without documents.
I have filed a separate FOI with the university on documents that might explain why the university ended a Title IX review of allegations by four named current and former players in the student newspaper that suggested intimidation and sexually demeaning remarks. The UA told me yesterday that case had been closed, which suggests it concluded no violation. I’m curious how that determination was released and if it included interviews with people previously quoted. I have also asked Chancellor Dan Ferritor questions relative to the UA view on treatment of female athletes generally and the view of response to FOI requests in light of the Rutledge opinion on digital files. He has not responded.
Athletic Director Jeff Long, who fired a volleyball coach, Chris Poole, who was and has been more successful than Pulliza in eight years at UA, has refused to discuss this issue since the controversy erupted. It arose from disclosure of an anonymous letter calling for Pulliza’s resignation. He disputed the allegations of threatening and demeaning remarks, though conceded a tough coaching style.
PS — A resignation means, under Arkansas law, that no records that might exist related to Pulliza’s work performance or complaints about that performance are open to inspection by the public.