U silent on sex harassment report; regents search for leaker

University of Minnesota Board of Regents Chair Dean Johnson
University of Minnesota Board of Regents Chair Dean Johnson speaks with reporters Thursday afternoon about a KSTP report about a sexual harassment investigation in the U's athletics department.
Peter Cox | MPR News

University of Minnesota regents said Thursday they would not respond to a news report alleging an athletics department official had sexually harassed an employee but added that they've launched an inquiry to find out who leaked the information.

KSTP-TV reported Wednesday that the official was investigated by the university's Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office. KSTP said an email from university officials to regents says the investigation found the official sexually harassed another athletic department employee.

In a statement released following Thursday's closed-door regents meeting, the university said it takes "very seriously any accusations made against any of our employees" but that details of the "current situation" could not be discussed.

The statement also said the board had launched an inquiry to find out which regent leaked the information to KSTP — and it encourages KSTP to name the leaker.

The issue is a particularly sensitive one at the U. In 2015, Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague resigned after two employees claimed he sexually harassed them. His deputy, Mike Ellis, also resigned after unspecified complaints against him.

The regent's motion calls on each of the 12 board members, as well as university employees who had access to the memo, "to sign affidavits stating they did not share the confidential memo, or its contents, with media or anyone else."

The board will also tap outside counsel and experts "to conduct a forensic investigation of electronic communications of individuals with access to the memo," the regent statement said.

Regents Chair Dean Johnson, a former state senator, told reporters the board was concerned about sexual harassment issues, but that regents have to be able to trust each other regarding leaks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.