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U athletics administrator gets 2-week suspension for sexual harassment

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U athletics fundraiser Randy Handel, right
In this April 15, 2017 photo, University of Minnesota athletics fundraiser Randy Handel, right, and athletic director Mark Coyle watch from the sidelines during the Gophers' spring NCAA college football game.
Aaron Lavinsky | Star Tribune via AP

A University of Minnesota athletics department administrator will serve a two-week, unpaid suspension for sexual harassment misconduct.

The university on Thursday released the findings of an internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Randy Handel, who serves as the associate athletic director of development.

A subordinate said Handel's behavior included frequent hugging, touching and inappropriate comments about the person's looks, according to the investigative report.

Last summer in Handel's office, he commented on the subordinate's looks and said, "If only I were a few years younger," and then trailed off, according to a redacted university report made public Thursday.

Handel on more than 20 occasions touched the person's face, neck or upper chest without permission "to remove an eyelash or make-up brush bristle," the report said.

Handel said he never had any sexual intent toward the subordinate.

In a letter Thursday, Athletics Director Mark Coyle told Handel his unpaid suspension starts Monday, and he will be required to participate in sexual harassment training. 

Handel will no longer supervise and his office will be moved to a different athletics building on the Twin Cities campus.

KSTP-TV first reported the allegations against Handel, and the university was initially silent on the claims. It cited privacy laws.

The university's Board of Regents launched an inquiry to find out who leaked the information. That prompted critics to say the regents cared more about the leak than they did about sexual harassment. 

The regents also pushed KSTP to reveal its source. A journalism group issued a public letter defending the television station and chiding university leadership.

Jim Nobles, the state legislative auditor, said he will review how the University of Minnesota handles sexual harassment.

In 2015, former athletic director Norwood Teague resigned after two employees said he sexually harassed them. Three months later, Teague's deputy Mike Ellis also resigned after unspecified complaints against him.

Last winter, several Minnesota football players were suspended amid a sexual assault investigation. 

Nobles said he hopes to a deliver a report to the Legislature on his findings by next year, if not earlier.