Strength coach claims University of Montana fired him for harassment complaint

2012-06-19T21:30:00Z 2012-06-20T09:51:19Z Strength coach claims University of Montana fired him for harassment complaintBy GWEN FLORIO of the Missoulian missoulian.com
June 19, 2012 9:30 pm  • 

A University of Montana strength coach was fired after complaining to his supervisor that a male staff member was harassing a woman on his staff, according to the complaint he filed with Montana Human Rights Bureau.

“The male staff member engaged in derogatory, sexually explicit and demeaning jokes, remarks and comments as well as racially derogatory jokes and remarks,” according to the complaint amended last month by Scott Kirchmann.

The complaint is the most recent allegation to surface on a campus roiled by sexual assault allegations that have spurred two federal investigations, including one into reports of harassment by members of the Grizzlies football team.

Kirchmann’s complaint said he emailed his supervisor, Jean Gee – who at the time was senior associate athletic director – on Oct. 9 about the harassment issue.

The next day, Gee and athletic director Jim O’Day told Kirchmann his contract would not be renewed, even though he’d received a positive evaluation a month earlier, and his contract had been renewed since 2008, the complaint said.

“Scott Kirchmann believes that his contract was not renewed and he was forced into administrative leave and away from the work he loved and students he enjoyed working with because he opposed the sexual harassment of his staff, reported the sexual harassment to his supervisor and requested that an investigation be undertaken,” it said.

On Tuesday, Associate Commissioner of Higher Education Kevin McRae said that “we deny the charges, and we’re confident the evidence will show the university has acted responsibly.”

***

McRae pointed out that Kirchmann, UM’s director of athletic performance, substantially changed his complaint after first filing it in March. Kirchmann did not return a call seeking comment on Tuesday.

In both complaints, Kirchmann said he went on medical leave on Oct. 10, 2011, for neck surgery. His initial complaint also mentioned that his son had heart surgery in December.

Both complaints said he notified the university in January that he’d return to work Feb. 1.

The March complaint said Gee notified Kirchmann Jan. 31 that he was being replaced on administrative leave because of his neck condition and his son’s medical problems. At the time, Kirchmann wrote that he thought he’d been placed on leave “because of my disability/perceived disability and my association with my son, who has a disability.”

The May complaint says that on Jan. 30, UM placed him on administrative leave from Feb. 1 through the end of his contract on June 30, even though he was physically able to return to work.

“It is clear that the university did not want Scott Kirchmann around the campus to continue to report the sexual harassment,” the amended complaint said.

“Whichever story he picks, we’re confident the evidence supports neither one,” McRae said.

Kirchmann’s initial complaint was filed March 29, the same day that UM was rocked by the firings of football coach Robin Pflugrad and athletic director O’Day. Gee has since been appointed interim athletic director.

President Royce Engstrom has given no reason for the firings, other than saying he wanted change. The NCAA notified UM in January that its football program is under investigation, though the reason remains unspecified.

In addition, the federal departments of Justice and Education are investigating how UM handles sexual assault cases.

Six months ago, UM launched an investigation into allegations of two gang rapes involving students. That investigation eventually grew to include 11 sexual assault allegations, some of them reportedly involving football players. One football player has been charged with sexual intercourse without consent; the Missoula County Attorney’s Office is determining whether charges will be filed against another accused of rape.

The Human Rights Bureau has 180 days to investigate a complaint. If it finds a complaint has merit, it can order action to remedy the situation.

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com or @CopsAndCourts on Twitter.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(17) Comments

  1. montanaduck
    Report Abuse
    montanaduck - June 21, 2012 8:44 am
    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that she is reporting with no objectivity at all. she has very clearly taken sides within these issues which does not leave for very accurate reporting.

    For instance. The story about eGriz a few weeks ago. She trashes the site and everyone on it including the owner, who is a university employee and her evidence for doing so were a select few comments out of thousands. She picked through and found what was most incriminating and then used it to brand that website bad, when in fact about 98% of the posts on that site are completely appropriate, as well as it's users. if Florio is going to report like this and pluck isolated incident out of a situation to spice up her stories she is going to continually get trashed because everyone can see right through her and her stories. I would be absolutely embarrassed if i were her, for an obvious display on no journalistic integrity.
  2. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - June 21, 2012 8:11 am
    This man's firing for being a whistleblower is one reason a pervert can abuse children for years without being brought to justice. It obviously has a big chilling effect on calling attention to abuse, because if someone speaks up, he gets hurt. UM needs a whistleblower protection policy, if it doesn't already have one.
  3. DEEN
    Report Abuse
    DEEN - June 20, 2012 5:28 pm
    My personal experience has been that anything critical of the U of M gets thwarted with an army of lawyers and an EEOC person who is paid only to squelch anything negative. Something occured which was outright racial harrassment toward my husband years ago and instead of getting help, he got railroaded by the lawyers and EEOC. My opinion of the school is not good...I wouldn't send my child there. Just my opinion of course and we all have one.
  4. Business is Business
    Report Abuse
    Business is Business - June 20, 2012 4:29 pm
    That's only 122 "gang rape" references in the Missoulian thus far. Come on, let's get cracking! We've got papers to sell!
  5. Geoff Badenoch
    Report Abuse
    Geoff Badenoch - June 20, 2012 2:19 pm
    Is there any way to object to Gwen Florio's reporting without sharing your speculation that she is "just a man hating feminist who will take any chance she gets to rip on men..."?

    It seems to miss what may otherwise be an important story. I would like to hear what you think about what she reported and why you think that.
  6. montanaduck
    Report Abuse
    montanaduck - June 20, 2012 1:41 pm
    I'm beginning to think that Florio is just a man hating feminist who will take any chance she gets to rip on men and anything to do with how they are hurting women. This kind of agenda is bad for reporting, but then again the missoulian is basically a tabloid now so maybe she is right on par.
  7. ACMERAVEN
    Report Abuse
    ACMERAVEN - June 20, 2012 11:35 am
    Darn. It is getting tougher and tougher to get the daughters out of the house and off to college. With the coverups and usual punitive actions taken against those low life scum whistleblowers who dare to try bringing things out into the open none of my daughters want to go to college until they have completed the marine corps basic training and receive their badge as marksman and unarmed combat trained.
  8. Cato
    Report Abuse
    Cato - June 20, 2012 8:50 am
    Oh my goodness; another chance to refer to "gang rape." It is just too good to pass up. It's a trend:

    "University Enrollment Up, Gang Rape that Never Happened Not Blamed"

    "UM Golf Course Future Bleak, Possibly Because of Phantom Gang Rape"

    "New Sidewalks to Be Installed on Campus, Notwithstanding False Gang Rape Claims"

    "Latest UM Rhodes Scholar Announced, Despite Department of Education Investigation"

    "Ornithology Museum Gets New Additions from Peru, DOJ Investigators Still Investigating"

    "Are False Gang Rape Claims Responsible for the Leafy Spurge Problem on Mount Sentinel?"

    Is there going to be an end to this journalistic charade?

  9. Alan Johnson
    Report Abuse
    Alan Johnson - June 20, 2012 7:59 am
    Sorry to see there are so many people that see every relevant story as some reporter's personal vendetta. If the football program was not winning games, I think these same people would be would be calling for the heads of everyone implicated in this latest filing with he Montana Human Rights Bureau. Are they really suggesting that news of a complaint filed with the human rights bureau be kept out of the newspaper?
  10. Mazola
    Report Abuse
    Mazola - June 20, 2012 7:28 am
    I'm on! The waitress at Ruby's this morning called me "hon". What are my options, Gwen?
  11. walter12
    Report Abuse
    walter12 - June 20, 2012 7:26 am
    There could be many reasons he was fired and he is attempting to use this as an excuse.
  12. gvox
    Report Abuse
    gvox - June 20, 2012 1:27 am
    is not an athletic trainer. never worked in the training room. worked in weight training.
  13. MontanaNative1ed7
    Report Abuse
    MontanaNative1ed7 - June 20, 2012 12:33 am
    A similar article came out before this Missoulian article at http://www.nbcmontana.com/keci/31206183/detail.html.



  14. skater grandpa
    Report Abuse
    skater grandpa - June 19, 2012 11:39 pm
    Is what happened possibly connected to O'Day's firing? Just wondering. Sounds like a case of getting rid of a whistle blower trying to expose something. Maybe anyway. Sure seems there's a lot we don't know, but I understand HR issues and privacy issues in these cases.
  15. Jrob
    Report Abuse
    Jrob - June 19, 2012 11:07 pm
    Florio didn't file the lawsuit. She reported on it. UM admin is a culture of ego and incompetence, has been for a long time. Clean the house and the vermin leave.
  16. Sentinel
    Report Abuse
    Sentinel - June 19, 2012 10:19 pm
    Flog, flog, flog . . . flail, flail, fail! You are so pathetic Florio, it is time for you to be FIRED!!!
  17. Bittersweet
    Report Abuse
    Bittersweet - June 19, 2012 9:55 pm
    Hey guys! Here comes the Band Wagon. Let's jump on it!
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