Article by: JASON GONZALEZ and STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune staff writers
Minneapolis Washburn athletic director Dan Pratt is under investigation for a "private personnel matter," the Minneapolis Public Schools confirmed this week.
Although details of the investigation are private at this stage, athletes and others in the school community say it involves whether proper procedures were followed in the purchase of a new scoreboard for the school’s athletic field when artificial turf was installed last year.
Others familiar with the matter say the scoreboard price exceeded $100,000 and an issue has been raised whether Pratt, who operates under dual school and athletic department supervision, obtained proper authorization for the purchase. Pratt’s defenders say that the cost of the scoreboard was not budgeted in the project that replaced the field surface.
The new field was funded with help from the Twins' ballpark sales tax funding and school board spending. That left Pratt to raise money to purchase the scoreboard, which reportedly has been purchased but has yet tobe installed.
The school's new turf football field was supposed to include the new scoreboard, but a neighbor complained to the Minneapolis City Council about placement slightly outside the fence surrounding the field.
Pratt, who was in Arizona this week coaching the school’s softball team, declined to comment on the investigation. Principal Carol Markham-Cousins couldn't be reached with the school on spring break this week.
Markham-Cousins several years ago assigned Pratt to teaching classes in addition to duties as athletic director for Washburn and adjacent Ramsey Middle School. Parents describe him as extremely dedicated to the school's program but also encouraging the non-athletic development of students.
"He's always been nothing but the best,’’ said Jamison Whiting, senior football player who has committed to play at Northern Iowa. “I've never seen him do anything [questionable]. I was surprised when I heard, but sensed it was coming."
Washburn's student-athletes said on Facebook that they plan a walkout early next week in support of Pratt.