By Tim Eberly
Montana State University-Northern Chancellor Alex Capdeville has ordered an investigation about allegations of sexual misconduct involving a former athlete that were e-mailed to MSU staffers and faculty.
In the e-mail, women's basketball coach Kevin Emerick accused a former colleague of seducing a former girls basketball player and claimed school administrators were ignoring the facts to hide their own indiscretions.
Emerick sent the inflammatory e-mail loaded with accusations against Jerry Wier, the former sports information and faculty director on Thursday to at least 100 employees of the college, according to athletic director Ted Spatkowski.
In it, Emerick claimed that Wier "seduced" the young woman, who Spatkowski says is now Emerick's girlfriend, while recruiting her as a junior in high school. The woman played her final season at Northern in 2000-01 but is still a student at the college. Emerick alleged the relationship with Wier continued until her freshman year of college.
Wier, who teaches at Lincoln-McKinley Elementary School and also fund-raises part-time for MSU-Northern, denied the allegations. "I was caught completely off-guard by the e-mail," Wier said today. "These are serious allegations. I can guarantee you that they're not true. I've been here for 14 years and my reputation speaks for itself. And I look forward to the investigation."
Capdeville said he first become aware of Emerick's allegations two weeks ago when Emerick asked that his girlfriend be brought onto the team as a student assistant coach, a request Capdeville denied. During the meeting, Emerick told Capdeville and Spatkowski about his allegations.
Immediately after the meeting, Capdeville called an attorney at the Commission of Higher Education office in Helena, who referred him to Corky Bush, the human rescources director for affirmative action at MSU-Bozeman. Capdeville has since asked Bush to conduct an investigation into the allegations.
"We just felt it was best to have an outside person do the investigating," Capdeville said. "To do this internally wouldn't work."
In the e-mail, Emerick wrote, "Mr. Wier cleverly and pathologically broke down this young girl's defenses with expensive perfume, clothes, candlelight dinners alone at his home, trips to Flatland Lake where he gained the confidence of her family and used that association to further his own twisted agenda."
Emerick, who did not return calls left on his voicemail at MSU-Northern, wrote that Wier has been "disassociated from all contact with the women's basketball program and the Skylights in general."
Wier was an assistant on the women's basketball team for eight years before becoming the sports information director in the 1998-99 school year. He spent three years at that position before he was released due to financial cutbacks, Capdeville said. He was not dismissed for any wrongdoing, Capdeville said.
Spatkowski said that while the player was in her final season with the Skylights, rumors that she was having a relationship with Emerick reached him and he conducted an investigation last February. Spatkowski said he interviewed Emerick, the player and her parents.
Spatkowski said he couldn't find evidence that they were having a relationship. Emerick later admitted to Spatkowski that he and the player had started a relationship after her senior season ended, Spatkowski said.
Accusations in the e-mail were also directed at high-ranking administrators at the college. Emerick claimed they intended to sweep the situation under the rug because they were guilty of their own transgressions. Citing an example, he mentioned an "administrative married man attending university functions with another woman as his partner."
Though now divorced, Capdeville believes Emerick was referring to him in that section of the e-mail. "I'm assuming he's referring to me, because I'm not married and I have a significant other."
Though Emerick accused the administration of not acting swiftly in the matter, Capdeville said he responded as soon as he found out about the allegations. "For him to say that we had known about it for quite some time is an inaccurate statement. We have nothing to sweep under the rug."
Capdeville said he thought it was inappropriate for Emerick to make his accusations in a mass e-mail.
Emerick's e-mail also said the former player has suffered from depression and bulimia since her alleged relationship with Wier. She has sought professional counseling, Emerick wrote, and now has the strength to confront Wier in order to move on with her life.
Spatkowski, who has been the athletic director for 11 years and an employee of the college for 13, said he has never received a complaint regarding Wier.
"In all the time that I've been associated with the athletic department, no one has ever raised a concern or leveled a complaint against Jerry Wier," he said. "Jerry has been one of the best recruiters the campus has ever seen, because he gets to know the players personally. And he gets to know the family."