If, in the legal world, spending money is like running a race, then the USF administration has left Sami Al-Arian in the starting blocks.
Since the beginning of the ordeal, Al-Arian has reported legal expenditures in the neighborhood of $20,000. USF Public Relations Director Michael Reich said the university has spent $54,000.
Al-Arian, who last week said the USF administration was intentionally trying to run him out of money, described current expenditures as Ã¬a travesty of justice.Ã® He said it is the taxpayers who are footing the bill that will suffer.
Ã¬TheyÃre spending other peopleÃs money, and IÃm spending my own,Ã® Al-Arian said. Ã¬God knows how long this will take and how much itÃs going to cost.Ã®
Reich said he disagrees with Al-ArianÃs assessment that the university is trying to bankrupt him. He said, while the university is unhappy that it has had to put so much public money into the case, it is necessary to determine the legal ramifications before making a decision that will have national ramifications.
Ã¬ThereÃs no question that the university would rather put money into faculty and resources that will move the university forward,Ã® Reich said. Ã¬ThatÃs part of the reason why this case has been such a disruption on campus.Ã®
But, with more than $70,000,combined, already spent on a case that has not yet seen a day in a courtroom, the end to the spending may be nowhere in sight.
Thomas Cotter, professor for the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida, said it is difficult to tell what the university might spend before the case is concluded, especially since there may be a settlement further down the line.
Ã¬It depends on how complex it is,Ã® Cotter said. Ã¬ItÃs kind of hard to even come up with an estimate of how much that will cost.Ã®
Cotter said lawyer fees in the case will add up quickly. He said most attorneys charge in the neighborhood of $200 to $400 an hour.
In addition, the appeals process for this case could be long, with the possibility of a final showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court. Cotter said other cases, in particular anti-trust lawsuits, that have taken a similar path have ended up with a price tag in the neighborhood of $1 million.
But the total case expenditure for the university is broader than just the legal fees. Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of GenshaftÃs decision to place Al-Arian on paid leave. That means, according to numbers provided by Reich, Al-Arian has earned $67,526 while not on campus. Reich said he could not provide numbers for the amount spent to have other professors cover Al-ArianÃs courses.
Roy Weatherford, president of USFÃs faculty union, said he feels action against Al-Arian is not a good way to spend public money, especially during a time of financial difficulty for state universities.
Ã¬It is difficult for those of us bearing the severe budget cuts (to see),Ã® Weatherford said. Ã¬(GenshaftÃs actions) bear no purpose except for passing the buck and delaying.Ã®
As for Genshaft herself, she claims to spend half of her time on the Al-Arian affair. With her salary standing at $232,000 a year, that would mean that another $116,000 has been put into the case by the university.
Genshaft was asked last week how she would respond to students and faculty who might be concerned during a period of cutbacks about money spent in pursuing the Al-Arian case. She had no comment.
Weatherford said he is sure more money will be spent before the case concludes. He said he disagrees with the legal action and feels court expenditures are wasted money.
Ã¬It is clearly contributing nothing to the education of the students and the advancement of knowledge,Ã® Weatherford said.