Marsh Valley trustees discipline superintendent for ethical violations

The Marsh Valley School Board has disciplined Superintendent Marvin Hansen for ethical violations following a district-funded investigation into a sexual harassment complaint made by a former district employee, the superintendent announced on his personal Facebook page Wednesday night.

According to a summary of the investigation, Hansen’s relationship with the former employee “did not amount to sexual harassment under District policy,” but the investigator concluded a “sexual relationship existed” between the two. Trustees concluded from the investigation that the superintendent would be disciplined for misusing a district car and cell phone, Hansen said in his Facebook post.

Hansen said the board has since offered him a one-year contract to serve as superintendent until trustees find someone to replace him. When that happens, Hansen said he will be demoted to an “administrative assistant” with a 40 percent cut to his $108,973 annual salary.

Marsh Valley board chair Kevin Fonnesbeck told Idaho Education News on Thursday that trustees have discussed offering Hansen a new contract, but that the board won’t consider contracts until its July meeting.

Screenshot from Marsh Valley superintendent Marvin Hansen’s Facebook page.

Hansen has been Marsh Valley’s superintendent for 16 years.

The former employee who accused Hansen of sexual harassment last week gave EdNews a copy of her complaint, which includes allegations that Hansen sexually harassed her several times when she was a district employee over four years ago.

The former employee also gave EdNews a copy of the one-page summary of the investigation, written by the district’s attorney, Jill Holinka. The former employee said she did not receive a copy of the full investigation report. EdNews made a public records request for the full report, which the district denied citing personnel concerns. Holinka did not respond to questions about the investigation or the report.

Marsh Valley trustees reviewed the full report of the investigation and consider the matter closed, according to Holinka’s May 7 summary of the findings.

The complaint

The former employee said she believes the board mishandled her complaint. (EdNews has verified the complaint and the former employee’s identity and agreed to give her anonymity.)

The former employee sent her complaint to Hansen on March 2. The district’s sexual harassment policy requires complaints involving the superintendent to be sent to a discrimination-compliance officer designated by the superintendent.

Marvin Hansen (Idaho State Journal photo)

Two days later, Fonnesbeck, the board chair, responded to the former employee informing her that he had been designated as the compliance officer charged with handling the complaint.

Holinka later told the former employee that the board had retained former Bannock County Sheriff’s Office detective Toni Vollmer to investigate the matter.

‘Serious concerns’

Vollmer and Fonnesbeck were co-workers in the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office from 2003 to 2016, before Vollmer took a job at a private security firm, according to her LinkedIn profile. Fonnesbeck’s LinkedIn profile indicates that he is a captain at the sheriff’s office, where he’s worked for over 34 years.

The former employee sent EdNews other emails related to the investigation, including one detailing her “serious concerns” about the connection between Vollmer and Fonnesbeck.

“If the investigation goes forward, I would like the report to reflect Ms. Vollmer’s affiliation with Chairman Fonnesbeck,” the former employee wrote to Holinka in a March 17 email.

Holinka replied the next day: “I can assure you that Ms. Vollmer is a highly skilled and trained investigator.”

According to Holinka’s summary of the investigation, Vollmer reviewed “cell phone records, District vehicle lists and correspondence” related to the allegations. The former employee told EdNews she participated in a “comprehensive” virtual interview with Vollmer.

Still, the former employee contends trustees mismanaged her complaint and that the investigation was plagued by conflicts of interest, including her perception that Hansen and Fonnesbeck are “buddies.”

Fonnesbeck told EdNews Monday that he has “maintained a professional relationship with (Hansen) during my tenure on the Board, as I would expect from all members of the Board.”

Holinka’s Boise-based firm, MSBT Law, invoiced the district $5,524 for professional services completed between May 4 and May 18, according to a redacted invoice EdNews requested from the district. The same invoice shows that Vollmer, who was retained for her services by the law firm and not the district, invoiced the district $1,750 to conduct an “internal investigation.”

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. Devin co-hosts "Beyond the Books" online news segments in conjunction with EastIdahoNews.com. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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