Sexual harassment claim against ex-provost surfaces
June 6, 2014
Then-Montana State University-Northern Provost Rosalyn Templeton repeatedly touched Dean Randy Bachmeier inappropriately over the course of three years.
When Bachmeier filed a sexual harassment claim against Templeton with the Montana Human Relations Bureau, Northern Chancellor Jim Limbaugh retaliated by, in effect, barring Bachmeier from being considered as Templeton's replacement, according to Bachmeier's statement.
Those were the findings of a Human Relations Bureau investigator.
The investigator found there was sufficient evidence to proceed with the process, and a hearing will be held at Northern June 16 to 18.
Paperwork detailing the allegations was made public after hearing officer Terry Spear ruled in favor of a request from the Havre Daily News, filed by the newspaper's attorney, Mike Meloy of Helena.
Meloy's request, filed in February, was opposed by attorneys for the Montana University System and Templeton.
Templeton allegedly sexually harassed Bachmeier by supposedly intimately touching his back, shoulders and leg intermittently from 2010 to 2013.
The complaint against Templeton was made in May, months before she resigned in August.
Limbaugh was unavailable for comment, his secretary said. The Havre Daily News couldn't find contact information for Templeton.
But Kevin McRae, the deputy commissioner for communications and human resources for the commissioner of higher education, which is representing Northern in the case, said that the university refutes the charges made by Bachmeier, the dean of extended studies.
"After the investigation we've done, we certainly respect all our employees, but we do confidently and firmly deny the charge because we believe we can show that the Montana State University-Northern work environment, including the environment for Mr. Bachmeier, is a nondiscriminatory, reasonable, appropriate environment that he has worked in the past and continues to work in," McRae said.
He added that all the upcoming hearing is designed for is to allow the people involved in the situation to each tell their side of the story and bring out evidence.
Sexual harassment complaint
Templeton was hired as provost in June 2010, thereby becoming Bachmeier's supervisor.
In October 2010, Templeton allegedly began to touch Bachmeier intimately at work, according to Bachmeier's statement.
In the first instance, Templeton is said to have begun rubbing Bachmeier's upper leg with the palm of her hand during a meeting between the two. Bachmeier reports that he was shocked at Templeton's behavior and stood, causing her hand to fall from his leg.
"Templeton's behavior of touching Bachmeier occurred intermittently and continuously from 2010 to 2013," Bachmeier's statement in the investigative report says.
According to the report:
In response to these advances, Bachmeier began to avoid contact and proximity with Templeton, going as far as moving his office into the basement of Cowan Hall in 2012 to get farther away from her. During meetings, he would not sit next to her and also avoided meeting alone with Templeton. He generally avoided circumstances in the workplace that would allow Templeton to make advances toward him.
On April 30, 2013, Bachmeier was required to meet Templeton in her office.
"Templeton began stroking Bachmeier's arm in a sexual manner," the prosecution's statement says.
Until this date, Bachmeier had used nonverbal cues to show Templeton her advances were unwanted.
At the April 30 meeting, Bachmeier asked Templeton to "please stop." Templeton allegedly did stop and appeared agitated, ended the meeting abruptly.
The next time Bachmeier saw her was within a few hours, when Templeton and Dean Christine Cremean came into his office. Templeton, appeared upset, he said, and began chastising Bachmeier for approving a travel form, which was later found in the investigation to have been in accordance with policy.
"Templeton implied Bachmeier had not completed the form correctly, and advised him discipline might be warranted," the prosecutor's statement says.
Templeton dropped the issue after Bachmeier told her he had followed proper procedure by going through Cremean, and Cremean confirmed it to be true.
On May 1, 2013, Templeton approached Bachmeier about a problem she had with a faculty hiring.
Though she had approved the hire the day prior, she accused Bachmeier of undermining her authority.
The final instance before Bachmeier took place five days later, May 6, 2013, at a dinner at Limbaugh's residence.
In a food line, Templeton stood behind Bachmeier and began touching his shoulders and back intimately.
May 7, 2013, the day after, Bachmeier filed an internal complaint with Northern about Templeton's actions.
Northern's investigation found that no sexual harassment had occurred.
Templeton's resignation was announced by MSU-Northern Aug. 21.
The same day, Limbaugh contacted members of the university administration for feedback on how to fill the position. Cremean suggested Bachmeier as a candidate, but Limbaugh allegedly "replied that it wouldn't look good for someone who had filed a complaint to get the position," the report said.
On Sept. 3, Limbaugh issued an initial notice of vacancy for the position, which required any interested candidates to hold the rank of associate or full professor. Bachmeier, who had neither, asked for the notice to be modified Sept. 5 so he may apply for the position.
The changes he sought were for the notice to ask that candidate possess the credentials that would merit them for consideration of the positions of associate or full professor.
After Bachmeier sent the request to Limbaugh, Limbaugh did modify the notice Sept. 10 - to only allow candidates who were full professors.
Due to this change, Bachmeier's application was not considered.
In the defendant's statement in the investigation, Templeton admitted to using "touching as a means of communicating with others in the workplace," but denied that the touching was sexual. She admitted also that she had touched men as well as women, but that the touching was a pat on the arm or the back.
"The touching is a means of providing a sense of reassurance or comfort," the defendant's statement says.
Templeton said in her statement that Bachmeier asked her to stop touching him in their April 30, 2013, meeting. She said she did confront Bachmeier with Cremean that day and that she confronted him again May 1, 2013 "because she believed Bachmeier ignored her instructions regarding the hiring of a particular faculty member."
After her resignation, Limbaugh decided Northern should consider the option of replacing Templeton with an interim provost, but did not recall seeking recommendations for candidates from anyone.
Limbaugh denied in the statement that he ever said it would not look good for someone who filed a complaint to fill the position.
Limbaugh also stated that the change to the notice of vacancy to only consider full professors came after Montana State University President Waded Cruzado asked to delay the posting until she could review it. After a discussion between Limbaugh and Cruzado, the modified notice was posted.
Rebuttal to defendant
Bachmeier's rebuttal to the Limbaugh's statement included that he wanted the notice to be amended "to include experience that merits the title of associate or full professor because the original language establishes a requirement based on a title rather than the necessary skills and abilities to perform the duties of the position."
Limbaugh provided the final copy of the notice to Cruzado and told her that he was to post the position later that day.
On Sept. 9, Limbaugh emailed academic leadership to say all changes to the notice had been considered and rejected. He then emailed Kathy Jaynes, the human resources director, to post the notice as is.
More than an hour later, Limbaugh emailed Cruzado a copy of the notice and wrote:
"There's allegedly a controversy that is about to surface here because I've said the position requires a doctorate and earned tenure. Said controversy is all woven into a pre-existing issue with an employee who has had an ongoing issue with the incumbent provost. I can discuss confidentially with you via phone if you desire more information," the investigator's report said.
The defendant's rebuttal states that it is suspicious that "Limbaugh identified a potential controversy before it occurred."
In the midst of the investigation, Bachmeier was asked why he did not say anything to Templeton for years before the meeting where he asked her to "please stop" touching him.
"I have a hard time talking about things like this ... it's very hard to talk about being sexually harassed by a woman and have people believe you," he said.
When Templeton was released, Limbaugh announced that the duties of the provost would be split between himself, Cremean and Greg Kegel, Northern's dean of the College of Technical Sciences.
"MSUN policy states that in the absence of the chancellor, Bachmeier's position is fifth in line of succession," the investigation report says. "Kegel is sixth in line, and Cremean is seventh in line. Bachmeier asserts his exclusion from provost duties is further evidence of Limbaugh's retaliatory behavior."
In the investigation report, Templeton asserts that no one, including Bachmeier, ever asked her to stop touching them. When the investigator asked Templeton to describe the meeting in which Bachmeier allegedly told her to stop, she said she did not recall such a meeting.
At Limbaugh's dinner at his residence, Templeton said she did not touch his back and shoulders intimately.
"Templeton testified she was standing in line behind Bachmeier, getting ice cream," the report says. "Templeton quickly patted Bachmeier on the shoulder and commented, 'Take two scoops, it's really good.'"