U argues at Brenny trial

Attorneys called on men’s golf coach John Carlson to testify for the University.

Jake Stark

On Wednesday afternoon, attorneys for former University of Minnesota associate women’s golf coach Katie Brenny continued their case in the discrimination lawsuit against the University’s Board of Regents.

The University’s head men’s golf coach, John Carlson, a witness for the defense, and a human resources consultant who served as a witness for the prosecution gave conflicting testimonies Wednesday about former Director of Golf John Harris’ treatment of Brenny. The lawsuit, filed by Brenny nearly three years ago, alleges that Harris restricted her coaching duties upon discovering she was a lesbian.

The trial started last Monday.

According to the complaint, Harris prohibited Brenny from giving instructions to golfers and limited her contact with non-freshman athletes. She also wasn’t allowed to travel with the team.

Carlson had no such restrictions, according to the complaint.

Brenny resigned in October 2010 after serving only two months as associate coach.

Arlene Vernon, a human resources consultant from Eden Prairie, Minn., was hired by Brenny’s attorneys to investigate the University’s handling of Brenny’s complaints. Vernon presented a lengthy report Wednesday that alleged the University didn’t do enough to address the issues Brenny raised.

Vernon called restrictions placed on Brenny a “demotion,” saying she had been stripped of all coaching responsibilities. She said Brenny also lost some coaching duties because she instructed a women’s golfer after Harris told her not to.

According to the complaint, Harris allegedly gave more instruction responsibilities to former assistant coach Ernie Rose, who is also his son-in-law.

When Brenny voiced concerns about the restrictions to former associate athletics director David Crum, the University responded by altering her job description, according to the complaint.

The new description omitted the duty of “Serving as Associate Head Coach, Woman’s Golf,” according to the complaint.

An attorney representing the University asked both Vernon and Carlson if Brenny still received the same base salary as Carlson, and both said she did.

Vernon said Crum conducted a mid-year evaluation of Harris and found serious issues with his performance. Given the number of student and employee complaints, she said, she was surprised the University did not discipline Harris.

Rose also received poor reviews, Vernon said, adding that some players felt unsafe around him.

Carlson testifies for the defense

Following Vernon’s testimony, the defense called Carlson as a witness.

Carlson said Harris kept a very business-like atmosphere among his employees. He called his relationship with Harris “uncomfortable,” saying Harris gave him menial administrative tasks and was a poor communicator.

Carlson said that, like Brenny, his coaching responsibilities did not include instructing players.

“Harris made it clear we were there to observe,” he said.

During cross-examination by Brenny’s attorney, Carlson said he was able to travel with his team. He also traveled once with the women’s team in spring 2011.

Harris also allowed Carlson to accompany him on recruiting trips, including one to Wisconsin in which he evaluated potential female recruits, according to Carlson’s cross-examination testimony.

In his testimony, Carlson said he found it odd that he was chosen to evaluate recruits instead of someone on the women’s coaching staff.

Carlson said Harris’ attitude toward Brenny changed for the worse after the 2010 Gopher Invitational — the first tournament of the year and the first major event Brenny was involved in.

Carlson said that’s when he found out Brenny could only have contact with freshmen. He also pointed out how Harris no longer seemed excited to have Brenny on his staff.

During cross-examination, Carlson said he never heard Harris discuss Brenny’s sexual orientation or say anything offensive.

The trial will resume Thursday morning.