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Rod Raymond

Instructor at UMD, prominent Duluth businessman, disciplined for harassment

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Prominent business owner, endurance athlete and University of Minnesota Duluth instructor and trainer Rod Raymond was found responsible and disciplined for sexually harassing two female students, documents obtained by the News Tribune show.

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While the university did not provide details of the allegations against him, Raymond, 44, was informed in a July 15 letter sent by his supervisor, Mick McComber, that his behaviors were "absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated at UMD."

"Chancellor Kathryn Martin and [former] Vice Chancellor Randy Hyman have also reviewed the report and have expressed their serious concerns," McComber wrote.

The university required Raymond to attend a sexual harassment workshop and ordered him to refrain from saying anything unrelated to work about "the young women, or any other women UMD contacted for the investigation," the letter said. He also must have witnesses present during meetings with young women, keep his office door open, refrain from private meetings with young women and not take work-related trips with female students.

The News Tribune obtained the letter and another document outlining the discipline Tuesday after making a request under Minnesota's open records law.

Raymond co-owns Duluth's Burrito Union, Fitger's Brewhouse, the Red Star Lounge and Duluth's former City Hall building at 132 E. Superior St. He is a well-known personal trainer and describes himself on his Web site, rodraymond.com, as "one of a few Master Personal Trainers in the country." He has been the personal trainer for Martin as well as former Duluth Mayor Herb Bergson.

Raymond said the incident, which happened last spring, was a "big misunderstanding." He noted that he never admitted guilt.

He said he was evaluating two fitness-instructor students for a class and one of them "perceived that I was putting too much power onto her, too much energy onto her."

He added: "I didn't realize she was upset. I didn't realize what was going on. Later on, I was called into the office."

He said the victim's "perception" of what happened "trumps intention."

"This was the first time the students were evaluated, and they got anxious -- I don't know why," he said. "They just got upset about it."

Asked why the students accused him of sexual harassment, Raymond said: "Sexual harassment has a number of different definitions. It's all about power. I don't like that word, 'sexual harassment.' It's a position of power. One of my tri-athletes could look at me while I'm giving a lecture -- up and down, up and down, up and down -- and I could perceive that as sexual harassment.

"This was such a gray area on where we go with this conversation. I think that's why the university closed the case so quickly. It was a big misunderstanding. Everyone's cool. We talked about it, and we learned what's a better way to evaluate [students]."

Raymond said he still speaks with the two young women who accused him of harassment. He also said one of them thinks the investigation "went too far." Neither of the students could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Raymond, who has worked at UMD since 1989 and earns $47,570 a year at the school, said his discipline and the stern language in the July 15 letter are "standard procedure" at UMD. He said the university has been happy with his response to the issue and it's a "closed case."

"You might want to call the chancellor," he said, adding that Martin told him: "Water under the bridge. Go to the workshop, and let's get back to training."

Martin did not return a call Tuesday evening at her home seeking a comment.

Raymond also recommended that the News Tribune call McComber, director of the Outdoor Sports Recreational program, but McComber declined to comment.

University spokeswoman Susan Latto said, "We are not allowed to comment because this is a personnel matter."

UMD Human Resources Director Judith Karon said the complaints that led to the investigation and discipline were the only complaints that have been filed against Raymond.

The News Tribune also requested to review the investigation report for Raymond's case, which is public under Minnesota law. But the university did not produce that document or explain why it was withheld.

In the July 15 letter, McComber said he had been directed to "carefully monitor" Raymond's behavior. Raymond must meet with McComber every other week to review his progress.

"Considering the nature of your visibility in the community, I strongly advise you to take precautions in the interactions you have with others," McComber added. "You should work to avoid even the appearance of untoward behaviors."

"The chancellor trusts and believes in me," Raymond said. "My bosses at the university believe in me. University officials believe in me, and they keep me on the staff."

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