HAVRE, Mont. ― A hearing officer with the Montana Human Rights Commission has awarded $175,000 to a dean at Montana State University-Northern who complained that the former provost sexually harassed him.
Hearing officer Terry Spear said the university owed Randy Bachmeier damages for emotional distress, the Havre Daily News reported. The former Provost, Rosalyn Templeton, denied any wrongdoing.
Spear initially found that Bachmeier did not suffer emotional distress and declined to award any damages, but the five-member Human Rights Commission overturned that finding and ordered Spear to review the case and determine damages.
“Despite all the ways in which MSU-N knew about Templeton’s behavior of inappropriate touching of males, and her unerring sense of which males would be most distressed by it, MSU-N ignored it as long as possible,” Spear wrote in his decision last Friday.
The university system filed an appeal even before Spear issued his ruling because it believes the Human Rights Commission overturned Spear based on the facts. University system spokesman Kevin McRae said university attorneys believe Spear’s initial decision could only be overruled on matters of law.
McRae said the case could end up before the Montana Supreme Court.
Bachmeier complained in May 2013 that Templeton had touched and rubbed his leg, arm, shoulder and back several times between 2010 and 2013, making him very uncomfortable and causing him to have nightmares.
Then-Northern Chancellor James Limbaugh testified during hearings in 2014 that he fired Templeton in 2013, ahead of her planned resignation, because of his concern for Bachmeier. Limbaugh resigned in 2014.
Bachmeier’s attorney, John Heenan of Billings, said the award is far greater than the $75,000 Bachmeier sought. He said his client had sought a settlement, but MSU-Northern fought every effort to settle the case.
Heenan said Bachmeier will ask the District Court to require Northern to pay his legal bills.
Bachmeier was earlier awarded $20,000 for his claim of retaliation. He said soon after he filed his Human Rights Complaint, he was reprimanded twice in a 24-hour period.