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Paterno, Kenney Make New Allegation Against Penn State in Federal Lawsuit

by on November 26, 2014 9:36 AM

Former Penn State assistant football coaches Jay Paterno and William Kenney have added new claims to their federal lawsuit against Penn State.

Attorneys for the two men filed an amended complaint with the court on Monday. Paterno and Kenney now allege that Penn State committed an unlawful breach of contract during the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Monday's filing says that Erikka Runkle - Penn State's human resources manager for intercollegiate athletics - verbally agreed in December 2011 that both men would be paid their full salary through the end of June 2012.

"Despite Runkle's oral agreement, Penn State failed to pay each Plaintiff the amounts that were due to them," the filing reads.

After neither assistant coach was retained when coach Bill O'Brien took over the football program, Penn State allegedly began immediately paying Paterno's and Kenney's severance pay in January 2012, rather than continuing to pay their full salary until June. The two men argue that this was a breach of their employment contracts with the university.

Paterno and Kenney brought their lawsuit against Penn State in July. In addition to the breach of contract allegations, the two men argue the allegations around the football program in the wake of the Sandusky scandal prevented them from finding new jobs with other universities, national football teams or national media outlets.

They claim that Penn State and the NCAA committed civil conspiracy by signing and executing the consent decree, wrongly implicating members of the football staff in the scandal. They seek monetary damages and a public statement from Penn State declaring that neither Paterno nor Kenney was involved in the Sandusky scandal.

Paterno's and Kenney's amended complaint also addresses the internal NCAA emails from 2012 that refer to the threat of sanctions against Penn State as "a bluff." The two men use the emails as evidence that the NCAA acted outside the scope of its authority and that Penn State was wrong to agree to the sanctions.

"Moreover, not only has the public now learned that the NCAA was bluffing Penn State when Penn State signed the Consent Decree with the threat of the death penalty, the NCAA has further admitted that, without Penn State agreeing to the Consent Decree, the NCAA didn't have jurisdiction to act," the filing reads.

Penn State signed the consent decree with the NCAA in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, allowing the NCAA to impose sanctions including the loss of all football wins between 1998 and 2012 and a $60 million fine. In the 2012 internal NCAA emails, NCAA officials question their authority to impose these sanctions.

Penn State has previously asked for Paterno's and Kenney's lawsuit to be dismissed, describing their first complaint as “implausible” and “devoid of any specific factual allegations.” Penn State has argued that neither man was mentioned by name by the university in the aftermath of the scandal.

A hearing in the case was originally scheduled for December, but that has been cancelled due to a request from attorneys for Paterno and Kenney.

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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