U didn’t get much for the money it spent finding Teague

If you’re looking for some easy money, be a search firm.

There’s not a lot of work involved, judging by the Star Tribune’s revelation today that disgraced athletic director Norwood Teague failed to disclose that he was facing a gender discrimination complaint at his old gig at the time he was being recruited for a new one.

That was good enough for the U, which had paid a search firm $112,539, and it was good enough for a 23-member search advisory committee, which apparently declined to offer this bit of advice: “Check around a little bit because people with something to hide tend to hide it.”

Virginia Commonwealth University women’s basketball coach Beth Cunningham had filed a complaint against Teague.

The University of Minnesota said in a statement that Parker assured the school “that it had no knowledge of any illegal or inappropriate behavior concerning a candidate’s history or current employment.”

“With respect to Teague,” the statement continued, “specifically, as the committee’s recommended finalist, Parker conducted a full, thorough, and comprehensive background check that included a criminal check, references, credit check, and local and national media reviews for any potentially controversial areas of concern.”

Teague resigned on Aug. 7 after he was accused of sexually harassing two co-workers. Teague did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

The U said as part of Parker’s background check the firm asked candidates to “to disclose in writing any potential issues of controversy or concern that the University of Minnesota should be aware of” and that Teague “signed a statement indicating no such issues exist.”

“Neither members of the search committee nor anyone else at the University were alerted to any complaint against Virginia Commonwealth University through this disclosure, and the University does not know whether there was any complaint against VCU at the time of the search,” the U said.

Parker’s president, Laurie Wilder, told the Star Tribune on Monday that she would not comment on the company’s background check of Teague, but said candidates are asked to disclose “any potential areas of controversy or concern.”

The U of M has paid the search firm nearly $300,000 since 2007 to investigate candidates for jobs in the athletic department.

Knowledge of the complaint against Teague might have led someone to inquire whether Teague has a problem with women. Maybe.

In a statement, members of the search advisory committee said they are “shocked and dismayed,” but said it was the search firm’s responsibility, the Pioneer Press reported.

  • MrE85

    It didn’t take the news media long to uncover Teague’s past.

  • Neil

    “Parker conducted a full, thorough, and comprehensive background check”

    The facts appear to contradict that statement. A “criminal check, references, credit check, and local and national media reviews for any potentially controversial areas of concern” is not particularly comprehensive. All those things can uncover red flags, but still that’s basically what I went through to get MY current job (which is not particularly fancy). Except that I also had to have a drug test. A media review sounds like a Lexis search.

    Next time they should spring for the diamond-level background check package.

  • Matt Black

    “Dear Candidate: Please list any embarrassing and disgraceful behaviour that would prevent you from getting this job and likely get you fired from any position you currently hold”.

    Gee, can’t see why that question didn’t turn anything up.

    Like MrE85 said, it didn’t take the news media long to uncover the past. You just have to be willing to look and not willfully bury your head in the sand and blame somebody else.

  • Gary F

    I guess those folks never bothered to Google the guy.

    • BJ

      Yes, because the internet is where all the true facts are.

      • BReynolds33

        Google is a great place to start the search for red flags. No need to trust it blindly, but there is no reason to not use the largest search engine in the world during, you know, a search for information.

        • Gary F

          Correct. It’s amazing how lax the vetting process is for lots of important positions.

          Google is an easy start, follow up of course is required.

    • Neil

      What exactly would Google have turned up?

  • Postal Customer

    “VCU paid Cunningham $125,000 in July 2012 to settle the complaint, which was filed earlier that year.”

    Norwood Teague’s reign started in April 2012. Was the complaint made at the time the search company was making their inquiries? Even if it existed at that time, was it something they could have legally uncovered? The timing seems to have been difficult for anyone to learn about it in time.

    Now, once they uncovered all that by December, when they had their own discrimination suit on their hands, then maybe some action should have been taken. Like firing the guy.

  • crystals

    So the search firm and U committee didn’t know what was happening at VCU when he was hired – fine. That stinks. But they found out in December 2012 about the VCU settlement, right before he was charged with gender discrimination again – this time from a senior athletic department staff member within the University.

    In light of that, excuse me if I don’t buy the U’s apparent outrage that they weren’t told anything in the search process when they a) found out an awful lot of sketchy stuff about the guy just a few months later and b) seemingly failed to do anything about it until allllll the shit hit the fan now, two plus years later.

    (For those who insist that victims need to speak up in order to break the cycle of harassment, how about directing that towards the U instead? They could have stopped this in December 2012 and didn’t.)

  • CHS

    It seems like unless something has risen to the level of requiring a court filing, ‘vetting’ candidates is really just verifying their employment history and criminal background check. I was shocked to learn that my company has a policy of barring hiring managers from requesting references or contacting prior employers. (a mid to large size MN company) What I heard was that the legal department feels that the risk to the company in doing this is greater than the value of any information you might be able to gather. What that ‘risk’ to the company is, I could only guess.

    • BJ

      Funny, many hiring managers have begun to get into the alternative hiring practice of not doing a ‘full’ interview, instead relying on references.

      THe ‘legal’ issues you get into is as a former employer saying something that is derogatory of the former employee that they can use to sue you. Hiring I don’t know what the legal issues might be.

      • crystals

        Yes – I had to attend a state-mandated training a few years back for a board I was on, and in the legal section of the training it was made VERY clear that doing anything beyond confirming the very basics of employment (this person worked here from X through Y in Z role) could theoretically result in a defamation charge.

        There may be differences for public entities v. private ones (this was a public board), but those restrictions for former employers can definitely put hiring managers in a bind who WANT to do a really thorough, meaningful search to get the best person and feel confident in their due diligence.

        I should also note that I’ve hired a ton of people and been a reference for a ton of people, and it seems like very few people actually pay attention to, care about, or are aware of the potential legal issues.