Frazier counting on friendly court ruling and a return to NCCU

Sep. 28, 2013 @ 09:20 PM

A ruling from a judge pertaining to one of N.C. Central University's former high-profile employees could leave the school with a decision to make.

Durham attorney Ralph Frasier Jr. on Monday will be in a Wake County courtroom working to clear the name of fired NCCU football coach Henry Frazier III, charged with violating a domestic violence protective order.

Frazier's August arrest is the reason he lost his job. NCCU athletics director Ingrid Wicker-McCree said his personal life had become too much of a distraction for the school.

The termination outright cut ties between NCCU and Frazier, who received no financial severance from the job that was paying him at least $225,000 annually.

Frazier on Aug. 29 filed an appeal with NCCU Chancellor Debra Saunders-White, asking to be allowed to return to the sideline as NCCU's coach.

There had been no word from anyone at the university as to whether Frazier's request would be considered. NCCU spokeswoman Ayana Hernandez cited privacy issues.

But last week, after attorney Linda Kenney Baden, co-counsel for Frazier, used Twitter to issue a statement expressing her displeasure with what she termed as Saunders-White's refusal to reconsider her client's firing, Hernandez responded to a Herald-Sun inquiry.

"The situation involving Henry Frazier has been and is a personnel matter. The university stands by its decision," Hernandez said.

The case for Frazier's reinstatement seemingly would be strengthened if he gets a favorable ruling from the judge deciding whether he violated the protective order in place to govern the relationship between him and his ex-wife, Lanier Turner-Frazier.

In the summer of 2012, Frazier was suspended with pay after Morrisville police arrested him for allegedly assaulting Turner-Frazier, his wife at the time. The two now are divorced.

Frazier later pleaded guilty to assaulting Turner-Frazier and was reinstated as NCCU's head coach less than two weeks before practice began for the Eagles' 2012 season.

But on Aug. 19, Frazier was arrested after communicating with Turner-Frazier, presumably violating the protective order.
Hernandez has pointed out a morals clause in Frazier's contract that gave the university grounds to fire him if his conduct reflected poorly on the university.

Frazier's verbal contact with his ex-wife was about a financial matter and was communicated in a non-threatening way, Frasier said. That contact was permissible, and Frazier never showed up at Turner-Frazier's Cary residence, Frasier said.

Yet those calling the shots at NCCU still believed it was OK for Wicker-McCree to fire Frazier before he had his day in court, Baden said. That was wrong, and Frazier is prepared to fight both for back pay and reinstatement, Baden said.

"NCCU has caused great harm to Coach Frazier and his children by leaving him without income to feed his family during the time he is exercising his rights under the contract," Baden said. "Under the specific terms of the contract, which were drafted by the school, Coach Frazier has a specified due-process right to defend himself against allegations up to the highest court. The school can never usurp that contractual obligation by unilaterally claiming it is put in a bad light because the nature of the allegations do not matter under the contract. Hypothetically, someone who fires an employee wrongfully can be said to put the school in a bad light."

That gets at the decision NCCU is facing - reinstating Frazier and possibly bringing quicker closure to the matter, or refusing his requests for back pay and rehiring and engaging what could be a public-relations battle that keeps the school in the news cycle potentially in an unflattering way.

"We are looking into whether or not there have been any past practices or prior incidents of any coach who NCCU may have tried to jettison from employment without regard to the contractual obligations between the school and the employee," Baden said.

Baden, based in New York, has worked with the late Johnnie Cochran, the attorney who represented former NFL running back O.J. Simpson during his murder trial.