A campus ‘in disarray’: Report on investigation of misconduct allegation at Haskell to be released after more than a year of secrecy

photo by: Journal-World file

A sign at the entrance to Haskell Indian Nations University is shown in this file photo from Friday, Aug. 5, 2016.

A “frivolous” investigation of a former cross country coach. Improperly handled sexual assault allegations. An athletic department “in disarray.”

These are just some of the findings in a report about a wide-ranging investigation of misconduct at Haskell Indian Nations University, which describes an institution that is “severely dysfunctional and severely lacking processes and procedures.”

The 80-page report will be released this week after more than a year of secrecy, and the Journal-World obtained a copy of it. It covers allegations of student harassment and bullying by university administrators, theft, nepotism, sexual assaults, workplace harassment and intimidation, fraud, waste and abuse on Haskell’s campus. The report was prepared by an administrative investigation board under the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education, the federal agency that oversees Haskell’s operations.

Questions of whether the report even existed have swirled for the past year, starting when a group of Haskell students sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland in March 2023 claiming that a lengthy investigation had taken place on campus but had yet to be made public.

Now set to finally be released a year later, the report itself notes that students allege to have reported serious grievances to several employees at the university and the BIE — former interim university president Tamara Pfeiffer, BIE Director Tony Dearman and Bryan Newland, the assistant secretary of the interior for Indian Affairs — and received no response.

“(Investigators) could not find any evidence where any management official recognized the students or made any attempt to respond, even to let them know they would investigate their concerns,” the report reads.

The report is dated Jan. 13, 2023, but investigators submitted it to the BIE’s human resources officer on Nov. 7, 2022. That means the completed report has actually been under wraps for nearly a year and a half. Investigators first came to campus on July 10, 2022, to conduct “as many in-person interviews as possible during the week,” the report reads, with further interviews conducted virtually over the next several weeks and months.

What follows is a summary of some of the noteworthy allegations covered in the report, which paint a picture of disorder at the university over the past several years.

No-contact orders and a removed coach

The investigation confirms a claim the Journal-World reported nearly two years ago: that Haskell students were required to sign a no-contact agreement barring them from communicating with anyone — including their parents — about allegations lodged against their former cross country coach, Clay Mayes.

The order was signed by Tonia Salvini. In 2022, Salvini was the university’s vice president of university services, but she’s listed as acting president on the no-contact order dated Nov. 4, 2021. Salvini, Mayes and several other individuals are mentioned by name throughout the 80-page document, while numerous other names and titles are redacted.

“This requirement appeared to be unprecedented and was recommended or at least discussed with BIE Employee Relations,” the report reads. “Students allege Tonia Salvini and others threatened and intimidated them into signing the ‘no contact’ order. Evidence supports this student allegation.”

More details that the Journal-World previously reported about how students were intimidated are confirmed in the report, including that their continued participation as student-athletes was threatened if they failed to comply with the no-contact order.

The report notes that students were subject to bullying, intimidation and harassment — or at least treated differently — for wanting to work with Mayes, and the university’s management “did not enforce the Department of Interior Anti-Harassment Policy when complaints were raised.”

As the Journal-World has reported, the investigation into Mayes, the former cross country coach, revolved around allegations that he’d cultivated a hostile practice environment. After being hired to lead Haskell’s cross country team in July 2021, he was barred from leading practices within months and eventually fired in April 2022.

The report says that was a “poor decision based on unsupported allegations,” and that Haskell leadership “inappropriately” terminated his contract.

In July 2023, Mayes filed a petition for reinstatement and in a letter to Dearman, the BIE director, called for the release of multiple reports about investigations on Haskell’s campus.

One of them was a United States Postal Service investigation of the allegations against Mayes. More than 500 pages of materials related to that investigation were released late last year in response to a lawsuit from government watchdog nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which sought instead to force the release of the 80-page report shared with the Journal-World this past week.

Mayes, a contract coach, was also made to sign a no-contact order until the allegations against him were investigated, the report notes. But while the report calls that a “common practice” with BIE employees placed under investigation, it’s another “unprecedented” move since it pertains to a contractor, who isn’t technically a BIE employee.

Additionally, investigators say that any issues involving Mayes should have been referred to a contracting officer and could likely have been resolved via simple fact-finding by a neutral party, instead of a full-blown U.S. Postal Service investigation.

Instead, the report says “management” at Haskell engaged in efforts to limit the U.S. Postal Service investigation and “produce the outcome they wanted.” In part, that involved “pitting two factions of student athletes against each other to support their cause” and limiting their list of witnesses to a specific few.

The report says there was an instigator, whose name is redacted, and four supporters. Salvini, who signed the no-contact orders, is the only named supporter; the others have been redacted. Another person named in the report, Mona Gonzales, appears to have spent more than a decade from 2007 to 2021 serving in human resources management at Haskell. The report says Gonzales, who today is listed as “staff” on Haskell’s employee directory, is also “culpable of harassing Mayes.”

The report makes it clear that the investigation of Mayes found no evidence of wrongdoing, calling most of the allegations against him “hyped-up” and “frivolous at best.” Investigators say Mayes was “set up for failure.” He was intentionally not provided with policies and procedures, not given an employee orientation and was harassed by peers, according to the report.

The report also asserts that investigators couldn’t find any justifiable reason to place Mayes on a no-contact order and there is “absolutely no evidence he was a safety threat to any student or staff member.”

“As it pertains to the allegations against Mayes, this is another incident where the Postal Service should not have been involved as the allegations were not supported by any solid evidence and it appears that the only witnesses interviewed were those involved in the allegations, and it appeared there was little to no effort to obtain various viewpoints,” the report reads. “In fact, the board finds that there were other HINU employees and contractors involved that may have fabricated many of the issues reported.”

Investigators additionally concluded that there was a “concerted effort to undermine Mayes,” both by a group of employees whose names are redacted in the report and by an affiliated faction of student-athletes.

As a result, investigators say that Mayes was subject to “targeted bullying and unfounded allegations,” and his contract being terminated negatively impacted his career, family and life.

Sexual assault allegations

A significant portion of the report is dedicated to a handful of allegations related to sexual assault — offenses that were allegedly committed both by Haskell employees and students.

An allegation about one employee, whose name is redacted, describes how he frequently rubbed students’ backs and was known to look at female runners inappropriately — “looking at me up and down,” as one student interviewed by investigators put it.

Another student said, “I can’t count the number of times he rubbed me.”

Investigators found that behavior was “unwanted and unwelcome,” at least from most of the students they interviewed. The report notes that based on those testimonies, “these acts cannot be overlooked, intentional or not, because several witnesses said it made them uncomfortable.”

“This unwelcome rubbing of the backs and shoulders of the students, coupled with the allegations of him looking at female students in the manner described, is concerning, especially since at least one female student verbally informed him that he creeped her out and at least one male student said he moves away from him when he gets close,” the report reads.

The report also details a separate incident involving a coach whose name is redacted, who was issued a no-contact order and required to work from a remote location after a student alleged he “inappropriately touched her buttocks.” Investigators concluded that contact was accidental.

But while those allegations are characterized as more egregious than those made against Mayes, investigators say students on the teams the individual coached weren’t made to sign no-contact orders and that investigation, overall, was handled much differently.

“After review, the board finds it appalling that management would send a coach home and assign him other duties for several months for alleged inappropriate touching, yet not allow a contract coach to continue working based on allegations from students that did not like his coaching style or allegations of preferential treatment,” the report reads.

Most of the instances of sexual assault detailed in the report were allegedly perpetrated by other students.

Three students alleged they were raped or sexually assaulted in separate off-campus incidents in April 2022. The report details what actions the university took following each incident. In each case, testimony indicates that the students reported the alleged sexual assaults to an individual whose name is redacted in the report, then received a copy of a policy explaining their rights and options after filing a complaint under Title IX, the civil rights law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in any school that receives funding from the federal government. No-contact orders were issued to protect those students, and they were offered assistance with reaching out to local law enforcement if they wished.

But beyond those steps, the report says additional measures to assist the students varied.

In one of the cases, for example, the alleged perpetrator was sent an “incident report notification” advising him that his housing privileges were suspended for the fall 2022 semester and that a meeting would be held to discuss the incident report. But the report says there’s no documentation confirming whether that meeting took place, or whether the complaint was even substantiated in the first place and, if so, whether “appropriate corrective action” was taken.

Meanwhile, investigators said they were not provided with documentation like the incident reports or no-contact orders for the other two cases. Further, the report says there’s no information or documentation that shows any steps to protect the alleged victims in those incidents, pending the outcome of their cases, in a similar fashion as when housing privileges were suspended in the first case.

“The lack of documentation and information suggests HINU did not thoroughly investigate the incidents in accordance with the Title IX process and tends to support student allegations that Haskell ‘has issues’ with handling sexual assault cases and holding violators accountable,” the report reads.

Students told investigators that they believed that little to no follow-up occurred from anyone at the university to check on their overall well-being — a claim investigators agreed with. According to the report, investigators also determined that it appears that university leadership is not informed of sexual assault allegations.

This section of the report has five key findings:

• Haskell’s Title IX sexual assault policy and processes are not followed or applied consistently.

• Haskell staff appears to take minimum actions when students make allegations of sexual assault.

• Haskell’s procedures regarding sexual assault are “insufficient” and place the overall health and safety of students at risk.

• Haskell doesn’t follow up with victims to check on their well-being after a sexual assault has occurred.

• Haskell does not ensure students get the care and treatment they need when a referral is made, and services are not immediately available.

Other allegations — and missing pieces

There are some allegations addressed in the report that either were unfounded or inconclusive. There’s also a list of over 100 exhibits included with the report, such as pieces of testimony both from named and redacted sources, as well as numerous Title IX complaints. The exhibits themselves weren’t released with the report, though. Instead, the Journal-World has learned that they’ll likely be released next month.

One of those allegations was that a group of individuals, whose names were redacted, have stolen athletic gear for years and given this gear to family, friends and others.

But investigators found that while some individuals have been seen loading equipment or athletic gear into their vehicles, there is no evidence the items were stolen or improperly distributed. The report says the investigation also revealed that there’s no mechanism or policy in place at Haskell to require that athletic gear be tracked.

While the report clearly states that evidence doesn’t support that any athletic gear was actually stolen by Haskell employees, it does also note that the area where athletic program gear is stored — individual storage cages inside the Coffin Sports Complex — was not properly secured.

The report describes an unannounced visit by investigators to the storage area, where they found that the exterior doors to the individual storage units were unlocked and “easily accessible to any persons coming in and out of Coffin.” Additionally, some of the storage unit doors were either unlocked or left wide open.

“The Athletic Department is in disarray, has little to no effective processes and procedures and cannot be considered secure if staff aren’t held accountable for security practices,” the report reads.

The report also says Haskell does not have any policies or procedures housed in a central location; investigators say they couldn’t find any evidence that anyone provided Mayes with the information he’d requested about Haskell or BIE policies and procedures.

“The Board finds HINU to be severely dysfunctional and severely lacking processes and procedures,” the report reads.

• • •

Another pair of allegations raised in students’ complaints involved nepotism, specifically regarding a supervisory relationship between siblings.

According to the report, witnesses who were interviewed raised concerns about family relations, referred to as “groups” or “factions,” that are prevalent at Haskell. The report quotes two student-athletes, who spoke about how some individuals on campus have “the power to intimidate people” and “If you have connections to different staff around HINU, you are untouchable.”

The report also lists the Department of the Interior’s official policy on nepotism, which it defines as prohibited.

“A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance or advocate for the appointment, employment, promotion or advancement of a relative in or to any civilian position in the agency in which the public official serves, or over which he or she exercises jurisdiction or control,” the policy reads.

Investigators found that the allegation of nepotism at Haskell is unsubstantiated, but they said perceptions of it existing between the unnamed siblings is “likely to continue given the current reporting structure and may exacerbate this issue.”

• • •

Near the end of the report, investigators detail an allegation of one employee — again with their name redacted — operating under multiple contracts at once, accounting for upward of 92 hours of expected work per week. That includes a 40- to 60-hour-per-week position, a contract to instruct between six and 12 credit hours per semester and coaching duties for the university’s track team that took anywhere from 10 to 20 hours per week to perform.

For the coaching duties, a university card was used to pay the employee a stipend of $10,000 directly to her PayPal account. The full-time position included a contracted salary of $57,000, and the pay for instructional hours was valued at $2,039 per credit hour.

“(Investigators believe) it is unreasonable for any contract employee to be allowed to work 92 hours per week, and that this amount of work could be completed without overlapping duties and responsibilities, meaning she is probably being paid for … multiple contracts that are overlapping,” the report reads. “Of significance, federal employees who are instructors are no longer authorized to also perform coaching duties.”

The report notes that the university must develop a process to preclude an individual from receiving additional contracts if any one contract is the equivalent of a full-time job.


The report is clear in stating that the investigation that took place at Haskell was “overly broad,” meaning some issues may merit further investigation. But despite that, investigators also say they found Haskell lacks a mechanism for where staff and students can readily find information about administrative expectations and procedures.

Instead of having a centralized location for that information, investigators say that university leadership appears to apply “unwritten processes” and is “ill-informed or unknowledgeable” about BIE policies.

On top of that, the report says several employees and contractors outright ignored the investigative team’s requests for information, or, when asked for information “specific to them,” tried to tell investigators that they would have to go to other sources to find that information. That hindered investigators’ efforts to conduct a more thorough investigation and caused delays, the report reads.

That’s enough for investigators to call for some responsive actions, according to the report.

“(Investigators believe) many of the issues in this report contain sufficient information for management to act, whether it be administrative such as implementing policies and procedures, adverse information for issues warranting corrective action (discipline, reassignment, etc.) and potential training needs,” the report reads.


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