Legal look at Bobby Petrino's accident, contract

    8:43 PM, Apr 6, 2012   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Razorbacks head coach Bobby Petrino is on paid administrative leave after not disclosing he had UA football staffer Jessica Dorrell with him during his motorcycle accident.

    Athletic director Jeff Long said Petrino came to him Thursday before the police report was released and told him about Dorrell's involvement.

    UA consensual relationship policy

    Dorrell was hired March 28 by Petrino as the student-athlete development coordinator. She is in charge of organizing the recruiting process for the football team, including initial eligibility for each incoming player.

    Petrino's contract, which was for an average of $3.53 million annually, has a clause in it that would allow Arkansas to dismiss Petrino for "engaging in conduct, as solely determined by the university, which is clearly contrary to the character and responsibilities of a person occupying the position of head football coach or which negatively or adversely affects the reputation of the (university's) athletics programs in any way."

    Professor at Bowen School of Law Terri Beiner says there is still a lot to be considered about the status of Petrino's bike accident with a U of A employee and student; if he infringed on any part of the University of Arkansas' handbook or his contract.

    Petrino admitted to an "inappropriate" relationship with someone in the previous months.

    "If there is no personal interest here, if there was no personal relationship at the time she was hired then these policies aren't particularly implicated here. So it just depends. We don't really know enough at this point to know whether the conflict of interest policy is a problem here," says Beiner.

    The University of Arkansas' handbook, Section 3.6 regarding consensual relationships reads: "Consensual sexual relationships between faculty and their students or between supervisors and their employees in some instances may result in charges of sexual harassment."

    Beiner says legally consensual relationships are not considered sexual harrassment.

    "Nonetheless it can be difficult when you have a supervisor and subordinate in a relationship to really know if it was consensual or if somebody feels pressured because of the power inbalance in the relationship," says Beiner.

    The next question if it is consensual, does it infringe on the school's conflict of interest policy?

    If Dorrell and Petrino were in a relationship when she was hired there could be problems. Beiner says if there's an ongoing relationship when Dorrell was hired or one began after she was hired, there could be a conflict [of interest].

    "And then you only need to report it to the university. It doesn't mean the university is going to say it's an improper hire. And if you think about it, Coach Petrino, his brother is working on his staff, and his son works on his staff. All those present potential conflicts of interest that the university thought were fine. So it really depends on if the university thinks they can do the job well or if it's for a potentially inappropriate reason. I think it's completely up to the university to decide whether or not if they think it's a potential breach of his contract. Or whether some other sort of discipline is warranted. I think they have a fair amount of leeway here in trying to decide what to do about the situation."

    Complete overview of Bobby Petrino accident fallout

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