The firm that recommended Norwood Teague for the University of Minnesota’s athletic director position disputes U President Eric Kaler’s public statements that the search process was flawed.
In a letter to Kaler on Friday, an attorney for Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search said the firm “respectfully disagrees with any suggestion that its search process was incomplete, or that there is or should be any ‘legal recourse’ against the firm.”
The U paid the firm more than $112,000 in 2012 to find and vet candidates for the athletic director position. A recent revelation that the search did not turn up a 2012 gender discrimination complaint at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), where Teague worked as athletic director before coming to the U, drew criticism from Kaler last week. “In the search process, we relied on a firm that claimed they did their due diligence and missed this,” Kaler told Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) last week, adding that the U likely would not hire Parker Executive Search in the future.
Through its lawyer, Parker defended itself, saying that the VCU complaint was filed after the U had announced Teague’s appointment as athletic director.
U spokesman Evan Lapiska declined to discuss the letter and said Kaler wouldn’t be available for comment.
The Teague affair also raised a red flag for members of the Legislature’s House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee. The committee chair and vice chair wrote to Kaler on Monday to ask that findings from an outside investigation of the U’s athletic department be presented to the committee.
“We are both troubled and concerned with the information that has come forward so far,” they wrote. “For example, it is unsettling that the ‘thorough’ search process … failed to uncover previous gender discrimination claims filed against Mr. Teague.”
Lapiska said the U would share the report “with the Legislature and others as soon as it is available.”
Teague resigned Aug. 7 amid revelations that he’d sexually harassed two U employees, Ann Aronson and Erin Dady, at a senior leadership event last month.
More complaints have come to light in the weeks since. In his interview with MPR, Kaler said U officials had received “less than five” additional sexual harassment complaints against Teague. There was also a federal complaint in 2013, which U senior associate athletic director Regina Sullivan filed after she was fired in October 2012.
And then there was the VCU complaint, filed by former women’s basketball coach Beth Cunningham — the school’s “all-time winningest coach,” according to its website. VCU settled the complaint for $125,000 in July 2012, the same month that Teague formally became the U’s athletic director.
Teague, the only finalist for the job, didn’t disclose Cunningham’s complaint during the hiring process. According to the Friday letter to Kaler, the U’s search committee interviewed five candidates and then directed Parker Executive Search to focus its efforts on Teague.
In the letter, attorney Richard L. Robbins outlined Parker Executive Search’s background-check process and the timeline of Teague’s hiring, saying that Cunningham’s complaint against VCU was filed in May 2012, after the U announced the hiring on April 23, 2012. “Even if [the complaint] had been filed earlier,” he wrote, “Parker Executive Search cannot be faulted for not learning more about a complaint filed internally and confidentially within VCU, or otherwise filed in a confidential context.”
Robbins also noted Sullivan’s complaint, in which she said that Teague fired her because she questioned his “commitment to Title IX.” The U settled that complaint for $175,000 in November 2013.
“A Title IX claim by another claimant at the University of Minnesota in 2013 was not deemed a sufficient basis for termination of Mr. Teague at that time,” Robbins wrote, “and there is no indication that the reported VCU complaint would have been a disqualifying factor had the University known of it earlier.”