Goncharoff, who is on “non-disciplinary” leave, filed a tort notice against Bellevue High School, the Bellevue School District, the WIAA, Sea-King District 2 and the KingCo Conference, alleging he was banned from coaching without due process.
Bellevue High School football coach Butch Goncharoff has served notice that he intends to file a lawsuit against the administrative entities that removed him from his job.
Goncharoff, who is on “non-disciplinary” leave for the 2016 season, filed a tort claim notice Wednesday against Bellevue High School, the Bellevue School District, the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA), Sea-King District 2 and the KingCo Conference alleging he was banned from coaching without due process.
The notice states Goncharoff will seek damages resulting from state agencies having engaged in “tortious interference with business expectancy, defamation, blacklisting, violation of due process” and other acts that harmed his reputation as well as his present and future earnings.
Under state law, the claim notice launches a mandatory 60-day waiting period prior to Goncharoff commencing litigation against the aforementioned parties.
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“This is about my right to be heard,’’ Goncharoff said in a statement. “I was never allowed a chance to present my side of the story. WIAA and Sea-King have the power to impact my ability to work for any of its 800 member schools across Washington state — and they have not allowed me to present my case.”
The release said Goncharoff is not doing media interviews at this time.
Tort claims in Washington are filed when a person believes he or she has suffered personal injury arising from negligence by the state, its officers, employees or volunteers. Claims are handled by the state’s Office of Risk Management, which objectively evaluates the claims and uses a state-liability fund to compensate those that can be substantiated.
Goncharoff says he hopes the 60-day delay encourages the defendants named to take certain actions before any proceedings begin. He wants athletic and school decision-makers to “resolve several issues” and overturn any planned sanctions against him — including any planned future firing.
Goncharoff was placed on leave in the aftermath of last year’s WIAA investigation into the Bellevue football program. The investigation, prompted by stories in The Seattle Times that detailed possible violations, found Goncharoff and his coaches had received excessive payments of $588,568 from the school’s booster club from 2002 through 2012 as they built the Wolverines into a perennial football powerhouse.
The KingCo Conference imposed sanctions against the program that included a four-year ban on playoffs and booster-club donations. The Sea-King District 2 reduced the playoff ban to two years and will allow a new team booster club to apply to have donations reinstated starting in 2018.
In addition to his leave, Goncharoff is banned from participating in any programs associated with the school’s football team or its feeder programs. Goncharoff’s lawyer, Bob Sulkin, said in a written release that under the current restrictions, “Butch can’t even go watch a BHS game as a spectator. The decision-making here has completely jumped the track of fair, reasoned judgment.”
Goncharoff says committee members made their decisions in closed-door sessions based on the school district’s self-report and a “flawed” WIAA investigation that relied on unsubstantiated accusations and accounts from sources lacking credibility.
“I must take this step to preserve my rights, but I continue to be willing to find a way to work together and find a solution before taking legal action,’’ Goncharoff said. “My goal is to bring decision makers to the table so that we can resolve this fairly and transparently.”