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MSUM confirms complaint made against football coach

MSUM put head football coach Damon Tomeo on paid administrative leave as of Friday.

MOORHEAD -- Minnesota State University Moorhead officials confirmed Monday that a complaint has been filed against Dragons head football coach Damon Tomeo, who was placed on paid administrative leave Friday.

"At this point the complaint is unresolved," said university spokesman Doug Hamilton.

Attempts to reach Tomeo for comment Monday were unsuccessful.

MSUM officials wouldn't comment further on why Tomeo was placed on paid leave due to Minnesota privacy laws.

Offensive coordinator Joel Beard was appointed interim head coach when Tomeo was placed on paid leave. Athletic director Doug Peters said he and university President Edna Szymanski met Monday with the football players.

"It was just to let them know we are supportive of them," Peters said.

In cases that involve government employees like Tomeo, the school is required to disclose if a complaint has been made against an employee and the complaint's status, said Minnesota Newspaper Association attorney Mark Anfinson.

Anfinson is an expert in state data privacy laws.

By law, the school can't release more details about the complaint until the employee is disciplined, he said. If an employee is disciplined, specific reasons and all documentation regarding the complaint can be released, Anfinson said.

He said cases often don't get to the disciplinary stage.

"Here's where it really becomes a disservice to the general public," Anfinson said. "Because of the way the statute is set up, what very frequently occurs ... is that the university and the (employee) will work out some kind of a separation agreement. That separation agreement will not constitute a disciplinary action. As a result, there never will be a disciplinary action imposed ... and you'll never reach the trigger point for public access."

MSUM's Inter Faculty Organization agreement states that an investigative suspension should not exceed 20 days.

That time frame can be extended 10 days with written notice to the faculty association. The IFO is the employee union that represents faculty.

Anfinson said defenders of data privacy laws argue the statute protects employees against baseless claims.

"The public employee unions will argue very fervently, 'Hey, until something is proven, why should someone's reputation be trashed?' " he said. "The charges could be completely baseless. And I respect that."

Anfinson counters the lack of public information in these cases can be just as problematic, especially in cases that don't reach the disciplinary stage.

"It has the function of substituting rumor and speculation for fact, and that's not ever a good idea in these cases," Anfinson said. "Then the rumor mill takes over and that is a public disservice."