MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The investigation into a leak of confidential information about allegations of sexual harassment by a University of Minnesota athletic department employee could become costly to the school.
Documents released to The Associated Press this week as part of a public records request show Stroz Friedberg LLC has been hired to investigate last month's leak of information to KSTP-TV. One document shows the company's staffers charge varying rates starting at $110 an hour, with two managing directors who will likely be involved charging $860 an hour.
Another document shows that the firm of Don Lewis, an outside attorney retained to represent the university, will be paid at its usual rates with a 10 percent discount on fees, not to exceed $475 an hour.
The investigation into the leak is ongoing and there's no update on how much has been spent so far. University spokesman Evan Lapiska said costs will be covered through a budget allocated for use of outside counsel.
The university's Board of Regents launched the leak investigation last month after KSTP reported that a regent provided reporters with an email containing information about the sexual harassment allegation. Regents said they would hire outside experts to look at electronic communications of those with access to a confidential memo about the case. The board also called on its 12 members and university employees with access to the memo to sign affidavits stating they didn't share information.
The regents have said the leak investigation is important for many reasons. Among them, they've said that if the confidentiality of those who report sexual allegations can't be ensured, victims will be less likely to come forward.
In addition, Lapiska said: "In order for all parties to trust that allegations of misconduct will be addressed firmly, honestly, and in a fair manner, there must be respect for confidentiality at all levels of the University, especially at the top."
He said the university has processes in place to investigate such allegations and allow all parties to respond. He noted that data privacy laws govern what can be said in some situations.
In this case, once the investigation into the employee ended, the information became public. Randy Handel, former associate athletic director of development, was suspended for two weeks without pay and demoted after a female subordinate said he repeatedly hugged and touched her and made inappropriate comments. Handel said he had no sexual intent.
But the investigation into the leak continues.
Stroz Friedberg said in its agreement dated May 22 that it anticipates its work would be conducted by two people who charge $385 an hour, one person who charges $630 an hour, and two managing directors who charge $860 an hour. The document says the rates will apply generally and to travel.
There will also be technical expenses. For example, the document says machine time devoted to running a forensic process is $95 per hour, and the rate for using Stroz Friedberg's "proprietary host interrogation tool" is $100 per host, capped at $150,000 per incident. One network analyzer listed in the document costs at $5,000 per week, per platform.
Lewis' retainer says he'll be responsible for representing the university during this investigation.
"The University expects that you will conduct this review in a judicious manner, keeping in mind both the importance of the task and the need to be mindful of scope and budget," the retainer says. It also says that Lewis should use less expensive resources when appropriate to reduce costs.
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