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Council candidate was “collateral damage” in federal lawsuit

Art Jago did not expect an academic partnership he made at Yale University would land him in federal court.

Jago, a candidate for the Fifth Ward seat on the Columbia City Council next Tuesday, was a party to a federal lawsuit in Texas in the early 1990s, according to documents ABC 17 News obtained. Kepner-Tregoe, a consulting firm out of New Jersey, sued Leadership Software, Inc. in March 1990, a company which Jago served on the board of directors.

The petition from K-T claims the product LSI sold, a computer program, infringed on copyrighted material they owned. The company bought leadership training materials from Victor Vroom and Phillip Yetton in 1972, including “all modifications and improvements to the original work.” K-T purchased the license in 1989 from the two for $100,000.

Five years prior, Vroom teamed up with Jago at Yale University to make revisions to Vroom’s leadership model. That work turned into a book between the two, The New Leadership, and a software program used to train managers. The two became stockholders in LSI when it formed in 1987. Jago said he was aware of the deal Vroom had with K-T, but did not expect their model would amount to copyright infringement.

“I had no idea that that the new materials would fall under that prior agreement for their use of the materials in leadership training,” Jago said Friday.

A court trial ended with Judge Melinda Harmon ruling in favor of K-T. Both Jago and Vroom were aware of the company’s exclusive rights to modifications to Vroom’s system, Harmon wrote, and that many aspects of the computer software matched that of Vroom’s training materials sold in the 1970s.

While Harmon awarded $46,000 in damages to K-T, Jago said the company never collected money from him or LSI. They instead used the ruling in Texas as a precedent to win another copyright case against Vroom himself in Connecticut, winning $220,000 in that case. Jago said his work with Vroom, and the lawsuit that followed 27 years ago, should not worry Fifth Ward voters.

“That was a contract dispute between Professor Vroom and Kepner-Tregoe, and I happened to be collateral damage, or a third party sucked into that issue,” Jago told ABC 17 News.

Jago is running against portfolio manager Matt Pitzer for the city council seat left open by outgoing member Laura Nauser. Jago raised issues with Nauser and Mayor Brian Treece’s endorsement of Pitzer. Both also gave money to Pitzer’s campaign, which has raised in total more than $18,000. Jago said he has not actively sought out donations or endorsements in an attempt to remain independent. He has given himself $15,000 this week, alongside the $6,000 donors gave him.

Jago considered Nauser and Treece’s donations inappropriate. He accused Treece of trying to stack the council with votes he can rely on, citing his support of First Ward incumbent Clyde Ruffin. Treece has denied any attempt to sway a council person with his support. Pitzer also told ABC 17 News his vote would “not be for sale.

“The mayor endorsed me because he knows I am the best qualified candidate to represent the 5th Ward and have the clearer vision for Columba’s future,” Pitzer said in an email. “I’m the only candidate in this race with practical, real-life decision-making experience. Laura and the mayor both understand the importance of having that skill set given the difficult decisions facing Columbia at this time.”

Jago, a professor of business management at the University of Missouri, said he would retire from the school if elected. Jago, approaching retirement, said he wanted to dedicate himself “full-time” to the council job, if elected.

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