Ex-Union manager Nowak files wrongful-termination suit

Posted: July 26, 2012

BAD TIMING has rarely been so perfect.

A black cloud swept in from the south Tuesday, when it was revealed that former Union team manager Peter Nowak filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit in federal court. Nowak is claiming the club still owes him not just a very large chunk of his six-figure salary, but payment of severance monies he is yet to receive since being dismissed from his responsibilities on June 13.

According to the suit filed in the U.S. District Court, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Nowak, who resides in Florida, was contractually obligated to the team through Dec. 31, 2015. The suit claims Nowak was given the option to sign a release that would make his June 13 firing official, but keep him on the Union's payroll until the end of the year. If he chose not to sign, which appears to be case, he would receive no severance, as he was being terminated "for cause pursuant" to a clause in his contract.

Additionally, the suit says the defendants, Pennsylvania Professional Soccer LLC, and the larger Keystone Sports and Entertainment LLC, the engine that owns and operates the Union, requested an immediate repayment of a loan given to Nowak during his time as manager. While the amount is unclear, it's assumed sizable considering that the suit claims that immediate repayment would cause "Mr. Nowak immediate and material harm."

The Union and its lawyers have chosen not to comment, other than Union CEO and managing partner Nick Sakiewicz telling the Daily News via text that the "team disputes the allegations in the complaint and will vigorously defend against the lawsuit,'' which was similar to what Sakiewicz told Philly.com, which first reported the story, via email.

Clifford Haines, Nowak's Center City-based lawyer, told the Daily News that while the Union has every right to terminate his client, not paying him as per the original contract terms is unacceptable.

“Bottom line is the Union fired Peter, Peter had a contract that runs through 2015, and it's our position that Peter is entitled to be paid under that contract until Dec. 31, 2015, and the Union doesn‘t agree," Haines said. "They stopped paying him back in June when they fired him. There were some negotiations between lawyers representing the Union and the lawyer representing Peter out in Chicago, but those discussions were not fruitful in bringing about a resolution."

Of course, this comes on the eve of the MLS' All-Star spectacular against Chelsea, which has thrust the Philadelphia region into the spotlight. On Tuesday, much of the attention was centered around the All-Star press conference at the Independence Visitors Center, where delegates from both sides discussed Wednesday night's game. Chelsea will seek to avenge a 1-0 loss in 2006 to the All-Stars. It was revealed that Spanish striker Fernando Torres won't play due to a late arrival, but MLS All-Star David Beckham will be in Philadelphia for the match. Like Torres, Beckham missed the All-Stars' pair of training sessions in Philly and Chester, as he had responsibilities leading into Friday's open of the Olympic Games in London.

While Wednesday's game is the topic of discussion on a national scale, locally, the shroud cast by Nowak's suit was the talk in local soccer circles. It's been a tumultuous season for the Union both on and off the pitch, from a slumping record to a tax rift with Chester, where PPL Park resides, and now this. There has been no shortage of story lines.

For now, the focus is how Philadelphia-Chester will look on national television as a sold-out arena awaits MLS' biggest showcase.

"Philadelphia is a great sports town," ESPN color analyst Taylor Twellman said. "And for me, watching a game at PPL Park is unlike any other. In my time there, I've seen fans that even though they've been through thick and thin in a relatively short time with this club, still have a ton of passion for their franchise and for this sport. I think that will be accurately displayed on Wednesday night."

Contact Kerith Gabriel at gabrielk@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @sprtswtr.


AGENDA

What: MLS All-Star Game

Who: MLS All-Stars vs. Chelsea FC

When: Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. (kickoff approxmately, 8:50 p.m.)

Where: PPL Park, Chester

TV: ESPN2, Galavision

ESPN announcers: Adrian Healey (play-by-play); Taylor Twellman (color)

Game-time weather: 71 degrees under partly cloudy skies, with winds at 5-10 miles per hour.

Tickets: sold out at box office; about 300 tickets left on secondary ticket site StubHub, starting at $64 (sideline, section 112) to $1,500 (field level).

Parking: $20 at all PPL Park-approved lots.

PREGAME FESTIVITIES

8 a.m.-6 p.m.: MLS VIP Lounge, Sofitel Hotel, (17th and Sansom). A one-stop shop for fans looking to understand more about the All-Star Game.

4-8 p.m.: MLS All Star Soccer Celebration, PPL Park. An interactive fan zone at Toyota Green (West Plaza), where fans can meet and grab autographs from MLS players past and present, grab free swag from MLS sponsors and and sign MLS' giant ball, which has made the rounds all week throughout the city.

8:30 p.m.: Game. Pia Toscano, an "American Idol" contestant for Season 10, will sing the national anthem.

ROSTERS

MLS (MLS club and number of All Star appearances in parentheses)

Goalkeepers

Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA, 1)

Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting Kansas City, 2)

Defenders

Carlos Valdes (Union, 1)

Steven Beitashour (San Jose, 1)

Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City, 1)

Jay DeMerit (Vancouver, 1)

Ramiro Corrales (San Jose, 1)

r-Justin Morrow (San Jose, 1)

i-Heath Pearce (New York, 3)

Midfielders

a-Michael Farfan (Union, 1)

Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle, 3)

Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake, 2)

David Beckham (Los Angeles, 3)

c-Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United, 7) 

Landon Donovan (Los Angeles, 12)

Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City, 1)

Forwards

Thierry Henry (New York, 2)

Eddie Johnson (Seattle, 1)

Chris Pontius (D.C. United, 1)

Chris Wondolowski (San Jose, 2)

i: injured; r: replacement; c: captain; a: addition

CHELSEA

Goalkeepers

Jamal Blackburn

Petr Cech

Henrique Hilario

Ross Turnbull

Defenders

Gary Cahill

Nathaniel Chalobah

Ashley Cole

Paulo Ferreira

Sam Hutchinson

Branislav Ivanovic

Todd Kane

David Luiz

John Terry

Midfielders

Yossi Benayoun

Michael Essien

Eden Hazard

Frank Lampard

Florent Malouda

Marko Marin

Josh McEachran

Raul Meireles

John Obi Mikel

Ramires

George Saville

Forwards

Patrick Bamford

Kevin DeBruyne

Gael Kakuta

Romelu Lukaku

Lukas Piazon

s-Fernando Torres

s: scratched

— Kerith Gabriel

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