U leak investigation ongoing despite criticisms

The University hired a forensic investigator to aid in the investigation

Neha Panigrahy

Three weeks in, an investigation into the source of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents leak is still ongoing.

The University has sustained criticism from legislators and journalists since launching an internal investigation to find who leaked details regarding Assistant Athletic Director Randy Handel’s alleged sexual harassment. The story was first reported by KSTP-TV and led to Handel’s suspension and demotion.

On May 18, board Chair Dean Johnson and board Vice Chair David McMillan wrote a letter to the State Legislature defending the internal investigation.

“Please do not mistake our respect for confidentiality and honoring privacy laws as inconsistent with our stance on sexual misconduct. Respectfully, we need to set the record straight,” the letter read. “Individuals who come forward should not have to worry that the details of an incident will be flashed across the 10 o’clock news.”

A forensic expert has been hired by the University to assist in the investigation, said Brian Steeves, executive director to the board. He said there is no other update on the investigation.

Earlier this month, State Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles announced he would review how the University handles cases like these after hearing from concerned legislators.

The review will focus on how the cases are handled instead of the leak investigation, he said.

“There was this strong interest in an auditor reviewing the procedures and policies [from legislators.] Just how the University is handling this issue,” Nobles said.

Earlier this month, all regents and staff with access to the leaked email signed an affidavit denying leaking it.

Regent Darrin Rosha questioned whether the source of the leak came from the board.

“I would be interested to know … if [the KSTP reporter] suggesting that it was from a regent or did he receive it from someone who said it was a regent,” Rosha said.

A petition was also delivered earlier this month from the Minnesota Newspaper and Communications Guild, urging the University to drop its investigation of the source.

The petition got more than 260 signatures and raised concerns that urging KSTP-TV to release their source is an attack on the First Amendment.

The University is notoriously guarded with their information, said University journalism professor Chris Ison. A news organization’s credibility relies on protecting confidential sources and breaking that trust can have negative repercussions, he said.

“It can … discourage others from even providing perfectly acceptable information to the media,” Ison said.