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Independent report absolves U of M in Norwood Teague sexual harassment scandal

Norwood Teague when he was first hired as the U athletic director.

Norwood Teague when he was first hired as the U athletic director.

This summer, former Gophers athletics director Norwood Teague resigned amid a flurry of sexual harassment allegations stemming from his behavior at a department retreat. 

One female coworker accused Teague of drunk-texting her a series of nasty propositions, which she tried to discourage with repeated replies of “Stop.” Teague followed her from one room to another as she tried to get away from him, she said, and kept pinching her butt and waist. A second coworker at the same retreat accused Teague of physically trapping her against a wall as he hit on her, rubbed her back, and poked her side.

The women made separate complaints to HR. University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler was roped in, and when Teague was told that there would be an investigation into these allegations, he resigned with an apology for being too drunk.

Shortly after, Star Tribune reporter Amelia Rayno published a scathing first-person article in which she accused Teague of once grabbing her at the bar, backing her up against the cab she’d hailed to escape, and telling her, “You owe me,” after she called him for comments on stories.

Around the same time, Teague’s deputy Mike Ellis also resigned after a handful of anonymous sexual harassment complaints against him (and more against Teague) surfaced.

On Tuesday, an external report by law firm Fredrikson & Byron was posted by the University’s Board of Regents. Investigators paint a rosy picture of the athletics department’s commitment to safety in the workplace, citing “policies and procedures” that do not condone sexual harassment. The majority of randomly interviewed athletics department staff said that they would feel safe to report harassment, and that most conversations with Teague and other athletic directors were respectful and professional.

The report says employees felt "empowered to report sexual harassment," citing a figure of 83 percent of respondents who were confident their complaints would be dealt with properly. That finding falls apart in the very next sentence though.

"However," the report says, "of the (34) individuals who responded that they themselves or someone they knew had made a sexual harassment complaint ... only half thought the complaint was handled in a timely manner and less than half thought it was handled appropriately."

The investigation also exonerates the University for recruiting Teague back in 2012 from Virginia Commonwealth University even after a female coach who was upset about inequitable pay sued him for gender discrimination. Teague didn’t disclose the suit, and his background check didn’t turn it up either. The VCU lawsuit didn’t allege sexual harassment, the report concluded, and couldn’t have led the U of M to guess that Teague might harass anybody three years down the line.

Investigators could not substantiate Rayno’s complaint because the reporter declined to speak to them, according to the report. All other allegations that came in after Teague’s resignation were anonymous and too broad to prove, the investigators wrote.