MISSOULA — A former University of Montana soccer coach, whose use of a university-issued cellphone to text escort services in Las Vegas led to his firing, has appealed the Missoula County District Court’s decision to dismiss his defamation suit against the flagship.
Mark Plakorus, who coached the women’s soccer team for seasons spanning from 2011 through 2017, submitted his appeal to the Montana State Supreme Court on Jan. 6. Among his complaints, Plakorus alleges that the university violated his right to privacy, and defamed him.
Following complaints from UM soccer players that Plakorus texted them to excess and late at night, a review of Plakorus’ phone records by athletic directors showed he’d been in contact with escort services during trips to Las Vegas in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The university announced in January 2018 that it would not renew his contract.
After that the announcement, university athletic directors told the Missoulian that although UM’s Title IX Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action helped with the process by conducting a "climate survey" with soccer players, no official investigation was launched.
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In a phone interview with the Missoulian following his dismissal, Plakorus said that he made a mistake by using the university’s phone, but what he did with his personal time was his own business.
Plakorus’ lawsuit, filed in May 2019 and asking a jury to determine a suitable amount for damages, alleges that the university “wrongfully implied that Plakorus committed acts of sexual misconduct,” and hindered his employment prospects in its handling of his ouster.
A Missoula judge dismissed the case in December 2019 after lawyers from the university said Plakorus had not used all of the “grievance remedies” in his contract before resorting to a lawsuit.
“I don’t think there was ever any doubt in his mind that we would appeal the court’s decision,” said Quentin M. Rhoades, who represents Plakorus.
According to Rhoades, the foundation of Plakorus’ suit is not a contract claim, but rather his constitutional right to privacy.
Rhoades said he anticipates a decision from the Montana Supreme Court on whether to reverse the decision in about a year.