A high-profile University of Minnesota athletic official in charge of Gophers fundraising violated the school’s sexual harassment policy by repeatedly hugging, touching and making inappropriate comments to a female employee, according to a confidential report obtained by KSTP-TV.
Associate Athletic Director Randy Handel was placed on paid leave last week but university officials refused to release any details surrounding the action. A university spokesman reiterated Wednesday that the investigation is a private personnel matter, and the U cannot discuss any details while the process plays out. He said Handel remains on leave.
According to KSTP-TV, the woman told investigators Handel had hugged or touched her more than 40 times over the course of a year and it often occurred behind closed doors. She accused Handel of touching her face, neck and upper chest.
At one point, the woman told Handel she was “not comfortable hugging,” according to the report. Another time, she told Handel that touching her back to remove fuzz was inappropriate. She also once asked if the door needed to be closed but did not have the courage to ask the question repeatedly.
Handel denied repeatedly hugging or touching or any sexual intent, according to the report.
But the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action determined Handel “created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”
The report describes one encounter where Handel reportedly called the woman “beautiful” and said, “If only I were a few years younger.”
Handel denied saying that.
But four witnesses told investigators in the report that Handel “sometimes lingered” around the woman. One called Handel “very touchy” with the woman.
Investigators said there was a “power differential” between Handel and the woman.
Handel, a Wisconsin native, came to Minnesota in June 2010 as a major gift development officer and led fundraising for Siebert Field. He earned $145,000 in 2015, according to U records. He is married and has two children.
Handel was promoted twice by ex-Athletic Director Norwood Teague and assumed the associate athletic director position in 2013. Handel manages the Golden Gopher Fund and all fundraising activity, according to his university biography.
Teague resigned in August 2015 after sexual harassment claims against him from two university employees. Teague was accused of inappropriately touching two women at a university-sponsored event and sending several graphic texts to one of the women. Teague acknowledged his actions and sought help for substance abuse; the university conducted an investigation into his behavior.
The university’s Board of Regents launched an inquiry last week into the source of leaked information about the investigation into Handel. An earlier KSTP report said a regent was the source of that leak. Board Chair Dean Johnson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.