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Cleveland Browns fired GM George Kokinis takes team to arbitraton


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Updated at 2:02 p.m.


CLEVELAND -- Former Browns General Manager George Kokinis claims the Browns made him promises of full authority over team personnel decisions that they never intended to keep and when he objected, he was fired.


That's the basis of an arbitration filed on Monday with the NFL office against the Browns.


He is seeking in excess of $4 million in compensation and damages.


The Browns fired Kokinis on Nov. 2 after about nine months on the job. They notified him the dismissal was "for cause" and would not honor the remainder of his four-year contract. He was followed out of the team's facility by team vice president Lew Merletti and the club's human resources director.


The team has not explained the reasons for his dismissal. Kokinis believes the firing occurred because he objected to being a "yes man" to coach Eric Mangini.


"That would be a good interpretation of it because those are the facts," Jeffrey Kessler, Kokinis' lawyer, said in an interview with The Plain Dealer.


"It's Geroge's contention that a variety of promises were made to him about the authority he would have even outside of the contract because he was concerned about that issue," Kessler said. "It's one of the principal issues he raised before agreeing to move to Cleveland and leave the Ravens.


"There are a lot of representations they made about that and we now believe that the team knew it was not going to honor those representations. They were just made because that's how they induced him to leave the other team."


Kessler said that he would give specific examples of Kokinis being overruled by Mangini, "but it's fair to say that George was not given the authority to make any of the major personnel decisions ... during his entire tenure there."


An inquiry to a Browns spokesman seeking comment was not immediately returned.


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Conn. Native Kokinis Fights Firing By Browns


December 21, 2009



BEREA, Ohio - Former Cleveland Browns general manager George Kokinis has filed for arbitration against the team for firing him.


Kokinis, a native of Connecticut, was dismissed by the Browns on Nov. 2. He filed the case with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation.


The case could be heard by Goodell.


Kokinis is seeking more than $4 million in compensation and damages. He asserts that the Browns fraudulently induced him to join the team under the representation that he would have control over all player personnel matters and report directly to owner Randy Lerner.


Browns general counsel Fred Nance said the team was aware of Kokinis' filing.


"We've received it and are reviewing it," Nance said through a team spokesman.


Kokinis feels he was wrongly fired because of his unwillingness to defer on numerous important matters relating to the team's football operations.


His attorney, Jeffrey L. Kessler of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP in New York, said Kokinis had hoped the team would honor its contract without a legal fight.


"George does not want to conduct this dispute in public and we are therefore not going to specify the details of the numerous breaches that the Browns committed," Kessler said in a statement. "However, if the Browns respond publicly with false allegations about George's performance as general manager, as they have threatened to do, we will have no choice but to defend our client's reputation and will have much more to say about the Brown's conduct in connection with this matter."


After Kokinis' dismissal, the Browns sought to show his firing was "for cause." There were reports that the team's security and legal departments were reviewing phone records to build its case against Kokinis.


"George was shocked by the behavior of the Browns in this matter and sincerely hoped that the team would honor its contract without the need to file an arbitration," Kessler said. "But the team has given him no choice. Contracts are meant to be honored, not broken, and there is no basis for the Browns to assert that this is a 'for cause' termination."


Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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