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A day after the Fromberg School District board placed him on paid leave, Superintendent Gary Scott is speaking out.

“I did absolutely nothing wrong,” Scott said.

In a closed-door meeting Tuesday night, trustees interviewed three women — a school employee, a past student and a current student — about complaints they made regarding incidents that occurred early last year.

The complaints accuse Scott of sexual harassment. Scott declined to go in-depth, but talked about paying a compliment to one of the students as a confidence booster.

The district’s lawyer, Jeff Weldon, confirmed that the complaints had to do with communication between Scott and the women and did not involve “any kind of physical misconduct.”

The board voted 3-2 to place Scott on leave. The board then instructed Weldon to bring in a third party to investigate the complaints. Chairman Jerry Paugh said that, for the health of the district, the investigation needs to run its course.

“Our utmost concern is to protect the students,” he said.

Paugh was one of the two trustees to vote against placing Scott on leave. Weldon, at the meeting, told trustees that it probably wasn’t necessary to put Scott on leave.

Given that the accusations are a year old and don’t involve physical or financial misconduct, Scott reasonably could have continued with his duties as superintendent, Weldon said.

For Paugh, Weldon’s advice was good enough.

“He’s had a good reputation throughout his career,” Paugh said of Scott.

But the other trustees believed it better to put Scott on leave while the investigation is carried out. Weldon expects the investigation will take about three weeks.

Paugh has been frustrated by how the incident has played out, calling it “peculiar.”

“The complaint didn’t come through the channels it should have,” he said.

Instead of lodging a formal complaint and using the system set up within the district, the complainants sent two letters to the board and went to the media, he said.

As a result, trustees and the investigator will have a harder time figuring out what happened, Paugh said.

Rather than being able to follow a clear path now, “we’re trying to work it both ways,” he said.

Scott has worked in education for more than four decades. Early in his career, he worked in Idaho and later moved to Montana, working in schools in Lame Deer, Huntley and Hysham.

Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.com or 657-1231.

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