CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Benjamin appointed a new judge Tuesday to hear the lawsuit West Virginia Radio Corporation has filed against the WVU Board of Governors, athletics director Oliver Luck and several individuals associated with the university.
Benjamin removed Monongalia County Circuit Judge Phillip Gaujot from the case, replacing him with Jackson County Circuit Judge Thomas Evans.
WVRC, the parent company of MetroNews, asked Gaujot to be disqualified based on a 1987 disagreement Gaujot had with Greer Industries attorney Robert Gwynne at a Fourth of July party. Greer is the parent company of WVRC.
Benjamin said he reviewed the motion and “determined that the matters set forth therein are sufficient to warrant such disqualification to avoid even an appearance of impropriety.”
WVRC’s wide-ranging lawsuit was filed in June and names 10 defendants in all, including Luck, WVU president Jim Clements, board of governors chairman Drew Payne and WV Media president Bray Cary.
The suit claims unlawful dealings tainted the 2008 purchase of a scoreboard for Milan Puskar Stadium and, more recently, that Luck and Payne conspired to rig the bidding for the university’s third-tier media rights package. The contract was awarded to IMG College, which is partnering with Cary’s firm.
WVRC was among the firms unsuccessfully bidding for WVU’s third-tier rights last fall. WVRC did not enter the second round of bidding and has been critical of the university for failing to grant the company a hearing in light of missteps by Luck that were verified by state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
The lawsuit also focuses on a $7.75 million loan the WVU Foundation made to Cary’s company—a loan of which nearly $5 million was forgiven—and allegations that the football stadium scoreboard purchase also skirted WVU procurement policies.
In issuing the order Tuesday, Benjamin said the lawsuit should be considered for the state’s Business Court Division.