January 31, 2013
By Brian Mahoney, AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- Executive director Billy Hunter has fired his daughter and daughter-in-law from the NBA players' association, less than two weeks after a review criticized his hiring practices.
In a letter to the union's special committee of players, dated Jan. 23, Hunter informed them that Robyn Hunter was to be let go as of Jan. 25. Megan Inaba will stay on through the All-Star break to help coordinate activities in Houston before leaving her job on Feb. 17.
"Hopefully this decision will alleviate any concerns raised by their employment," Hunter wrote. "These measures are being taken although the report noted that both of them were highly qualified, not overpaid, and were contributing members of the NBPA staff."
Hunter also states in the letter, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, that the NBPA will no longer work with Prim Capital, the banking firm that employs Hunter's son, Todd.
The letter was first reported by Bloomberg News.
The review by the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP said Hunter's hiring of family and friends had "damaged the union." Though finding no evidence of illegal use of union funds, the report cited numerous conflicts of interests, noted that his contract was never properly approved and urged players to consider whether they wanted to remove him during their All-Star meeting.
"The appearance of favoritism has damaged the union. Mr. Hunter's pattern of involving friends and family in union business contributed to a deep rift among the NBPA staff," the report said, adding that Hunter's choices "created the appearance that he operated the union in part for the benefit of his family and friends."
Hunter wrote in the letter that an anti-nepotism policy had been adopted, and that other hiring improvements would be implemented.
"In my work for the NBPA, my priority has always been to promote the interests of the players," Hunter wrote. "Through the benefit of hindsight, as with any executive, there are always things that could have been done better. In that spirit, I regret that my long tenure with many successes on behalf of the players has been overshadowed by the appearance of conflicts of interest."
Union spokesman Dan Wasserman said Hunter had no comment on the letter or the dismissals.
Hunter has headed the union since 1996 and makes $3 million a year. The eight-month review gave players plenty of reason to consider his future with the organization, though Hunter has good relationships with many of them and has said he looks forward to continuing.
He is not nearly as popular with agents, who questioned his strategy during the lockout and sought a larger role. The New York Times on Tuesday printed text of a letter to his clients from Arn Tellem, one of the most powerful agents, urging Hunter's removal next month, and others will likely follow.
The review was sought in part by Derek Fisher, the union president who clashed with Hunter during and after the NBA lockout that lasted from July through November 2011. It began last April and included reviews of documents, financial records and NBPA emails, and interviews of witnesses.
Hunter wrote that he disagreed with certain aspects of the report but reiterated that he was pleased it found no evidence of criminal activity.