State Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Benjamin appointed a new judge Tuesday to oversee the lawsuit filed by John Raese's media company against West Virginia University.
The appointment comes after Bob Gwynne, Raese's attorney, alleged Monongalia Circuit Judge Phillip Gaujot threatened him 25 years ago and has personal social relationships with several people involved in the case.
Benjamin appointed Jackson Circuit Judge Thomas C. Evans to the case. He didn't cite a specific reason but said matters in the case "are sufficient to warrant such a disqualification to avoid even an appearance of impropriety."
In June, West Virginia Radio Corp. sued WVU Board of Governors Chairman Drew Payne, board members, university President Jim Clements, Athletic Director Oliver Luck, the WVU Foundation, West Virginia Media Holdings, its owner Bray Cary and others.
The lawsuit covers many issues but stems from the university's handling of its athletic media rights.
Raese spoke out after WVU signed a letter of intent with IMG College, a multimedia company that produces television and print content for clients around the world. The deal involved television and radio coverage of WVU athletics and presents a lucrative opportunity for everyone involved.
For years, Raese's company handled media work for WVU, but it was not included in the deal. In the lawsuit, Raese alleges school officials purposely sidestepped proper contract laws for their own personal benefit.
Since Raese's initial concerns, WVU has rebid the contract. IMG was again chosen as the school's media partner: They've agreed on a 12-year deal that guarantees WVU will receive at least $86.5 million. West Virginia Media Holdings is a subcontractor in the deal.
Raese didn't submit a bid but believes IMG and West Virginia Media Holdings should have been barred from entering into the contract.
The lawsuit was originally assigned to Gaujot June 25. In early July, attorneys representing Raese's company filed a motion to disqualify Gaujot.
In the motion, Gwynne alleges Gaujot threatened him in connection to a Fourth of July party in 1987.
Gaujot and Gwynne live near each other in the same Morgantown neighborhood. In 1987, Gaujot had a party where he invited Gwynne and many other neighbors. One of those neighbors does not get along with Gaujot, Gwynne stated. Because Gwynne invited that person, Gaujot and his wife became upset with Gwynne and did not attend the party.
Gwynne claims he tried to smooth things over with Gaujot after the party but that Gaujot rejected the apology, called Gwynne disloyal and told him "paybacks are hell."