February 28, 2018 08:40 AM
A longtime high school swimming coach in Orono, put on paid leave earlier this month, had previously been fired from another school following allegations that he engaged in "improper behavior" with female swimmers and made "sexually suggestive" and "inappropriate" comments, according to court records.
The Orono School Board has hired an outside law firm to investigate complaints against head swimming coach Pete Buecher.
"The scope of the investigation is to thoroughly examine complaints that have been received," District spokesperson Gary Kubat said in an email. He declined to detail the nature of the complaints.
Parents who attended Monday's school board meeting told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that Buecher had been accused of inappropriate behavior involving at least one student.
Buecher was put on paid administrative leave Feb. 1. He is not under criminal investigation, as police in Orono have not received any complaints. Buecher declined to comment for this story.
Buecher took over as head coach of boys and girls swimming in Orono in 2000 – six months after he was fired from the Roseville School District, where he had taught and coached since the 1980s.
District officials in Roseville investigated allegations that Buecher had made "numerous sexually suggestive comments" and taken girls to his home, concerts or dinner, according to federal court records.
The district investigators also detailed specific examples of inappropriate behavior, including one in which Buecher "asked some girl swimmers to bend over and allow him to inspect areas of their bodies where they had shaved," according to a memo included in the court filing.
In another instance described by district investigators, Buecher "pulled down a female swimmer's swim suit exposing her breasts and then stuffed paper wrappers down her suit."
In a federal lawsuit filed against the district, Buecher argued that he was wrongfully terminated and "denied many of the allegations."
However, he also "acknowledged the veracity of several of the complaints and allegations," according to the court records.
A judge ruled in favor of the district and dismissed the lawsuit in 2002. By that time, Buecher was already coaching in Orono.
Kubat, the spokesperson for Orono Schools, says the district conducts background checks, and that it is standard practice to conduct reference checks but stated, "We don't have documentation of contacts made at that time."
At a school board meeting Monday night, several parents spoke up in support of the longtime coach.
"We're at that pool a lot ... neither of us have had a moment of concern of coach Pete's behavior towards the girls," said Lynne Gardner.
However, another parent who had previously contacted 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and asked to not be identified, said in an email, "It goes without saying that Coach Buecher's actions at Roseville should have kept him from being around children in any capacity, anywhere in Minnesota, or in any state for that matter."
Updated: February 28, 2018 08:40 AM
Created: February 27, 2018 06:41 PM
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