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Fargo School District’s business manager faced bullying allegations before resigning

Broc Lietz

FARGO – The former business manager for the Fargo School District opted to resign after being accused of making comments to and about another senior administrator that, if proven true, would have violated the district’s policy on bullying, according to a district memorandum obtained by The Forum through a public records request.

Broc Lietz denied allegations that he said or did anything inappropriate or threatening in the case – which was brought to Superintendent Jeff Schatz’s attention on Dec. 11 – but volunteered to resign due to the tense atmosphere in the office and concern for his future effectiveness, the memo from Schatz said.

Lietz submitted a one-sentence resignation letter to Schatz on Dec. 18. The letter said the effective date of the resignation was Dec. 15.

As part of a separation agreement, Lietz was given a lump-sum payment of his accumulated paid time off of $58,167, plus two months of severance pay. The school district also agreed to pay premiums for his health and dental insurance through March 31.

As a cabinet-level employee, Lietz was paid a salary of $145,421 per year, according to his contract for the 2017-18 school year.

Reached Friday, Jan. 5, Lietz declined to share the names of the two other administrators involved in the case: one being the complainant, the other a witness. He also denied creating a negative office environment.

“I emphatically deny any claims that I created a negative or intimidating work environment at Fargo Public Schools. And I really hope that the totality of my record at Fargo Public Schools would offset any recent claims or allegations,” said Lietz, who had run the district’s business operations since 2010.

“I’ve really enjoyed the time that I spent at Fargo, and I’m looking for new and exciting opportunities out there in the private sector, and I’ve got some things that I am looking into,” he said.

Lietz indicated that differences over spending priorities may have played a part in the situation. He said even if he had gone through an investigation to gain vindication, his effectiveness would have been hampered.

“I chose to do what’s in the best interest of Fargo Public Schools and myself and my family, and really just move on to new and exciting opportunities,” Lietz said.

Schatz said Friday that the district would not comment on the circumstances surrounding Lietz’s resignation because it was a personnel issue. Schatz himself has announced that he plans to retire at the end of the school year.

As part of a public records request, The Forum looked at Lietz’s personnel file. All of Lietz’s evaluations by Schatz and former superintendent Rick Buresh indicated Lietz did excellent work on the district’s finances and marshaling construction projects. Other than the memorandum outlining the circumstances leading to his resignation, no negative comments were apparent.

According to Schatz’s memo on the incident, dated Dec. 18:

Associate Superintendent Bob Grosz had received a complaint from a senior administrator about disrespectful conduct and statements directed to that administrator. The complainant said another administrator had relayed a comment Lietz allegedly made about the complainant that could be perceived as threatening or hostile.

Grosz said he had witnessed exchanges between Lietz and the complainant that were tense and that Lietz was agitated and frustrated. Grosz said both Lietz and the senior administrator had sought his advice in the case.

After further discussions, Lietz was told that the alleged conduct, if proven true, violated the district’s bullying policy. Lietz denied saying or doing anything inappropriate or threatening. He was then placed on paid administrative leave.

Schatz wrote that he talked with school board President Jim Johnson and the district’s attorney before deciding to go ahead with an investigation.

Lietz continued to deny the allegations but suggested he would be willing to voluntarily resign, the memorandum said. His resignation is listed on the consent agenda for the Tuesday, Jan. 9, school board meeting.

Lietz isn’t the only district employee recently to face accusations of bullying. In November, allegations that a fifth-grade teacher at Lewis and Clark Elementary School was bullying students led to the woman being removed from the classroom, with the possibility of her teaching at another school if she meets certain requirements.