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story.lead_photo.caption Matthew Wendt

FAYETTEVILLE -- Superintendent Matthew Wendt has taken an administrative leave of absence with the district effective Sunday, according to the school board's legal counsel.

Wendt's paid leave comes amid an investigation prompted by a sexual harassment complaint made against him by a district employee. Wendt denied the allegations in a Friday statement.

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Wendt Statement

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John L Colbert, associate superintendent for support services, will serve as acting superintendent, which follows the established district protocol, according to an emailed statement Sunday from Susan Keller Kendall, attorney at Kendall Law Firm in Rogers and the school board's legal counsel.

The school district launched the investigation after receiving the complaint March 14, according to the statement

"The board takes all complaints of sexual harassment very seriously and has in place a zero tolerance sexual harassment policy," according to the statement. "Pursuant to the policy, the district is required to handle such claims as a personnel matter in order to provide as much protection and privacy to the complainant and the accused."

The district has followed its protocol, including measures to stop any interaction by Wendt with the complainant.

Board President Justin Eichmann met with Wendt late afternoon Friday and asked him to take a leave of absence, Eichmann said.

Wendt agreed Saturday morning to take leave "in order for the investigation to be completed for the good of the District," Eichmann said via text Sunday.

Wendt's attorney is Elizabeth Robben Murray at the law firm Friday, Eldredge & Clark. Investigations of this nature are usually kept confidential, Murray said in a statement emailed Sunday afternoon.

"Wendt has completely and fully cooperated in that investigation," Murray wrote.

The complaint became public after the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette received a copy Thursday of a letter from the complainant's lawyer, Suzanne Clark, to the district's general counsel Chris Lawson dated April 2. Clark confirmed by phone the letter was written by her.

The letter voiced Clark's frustration more had not been done regarding her client's complaint. Her client experienced Wendt's abusive conduct, he stalked her home and he threatened not to give her a raise if she refused to have sex with him, according to Clark's letter.

"Apparently, Ms. Clark and her client have also chosen to share other allegations in the community and with the press," Murray's statement said. "Clark and her client are critical of the district and the Fayetteville Public Schools Board of Education because upon receipt of her complaint, Dr. Wendt did not resign and the board did not immediately terminate him without investigation. Dr. Wendt has and will continue to cooperate in the district's investigation."

NW News on 04/09/2018

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Print Headline: Superintendent takes leave amid sexual harassment investigation

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