LRSC softball coach out amid investigation

Chuck Wickenhofer, David Perry
Royals softball coach Ben Morris has been dismissed pending an investigation into possible inappropriate conduct, according to school officials

Lloyd Halverson, Vice President of Student Affairs at Lake Region State College, said in a statement that head softball coach and former Royal baseball player Ben Morris is out as head coach due to an investigation involving "consensual relationships that LRSC considers inappropriate."

The school's policy and procedure manual states that "Lake Region State College discourages consensual relationships, i.e., amorous, romantic, or sexual relationships, between faculty and students, staff and students, supervisors and subordinates, and students who have an authority relationship over other students. This policy is in effect when one individual has a control, power, authority, or responsibility position over another."

The manual also states that "If the parties do engage in a consensual relationship as defined above, the person in the authority position is obligated to report the relationship to his or her department head or supervisor immediately. Failure to report the relationship or any significant delay in reporting may be cause for disciplinary action."

Morris, who "helped lead the baseball team to the most wins in program history after the school reinstated the program in 2013," according to the school website, led the Royals to a 31-5 record and the top seed in the Region XIII Tournament. The historic Royal run came to a swift end after two upset losses to Dawson Community College.

Sandra Lillehaugen, who works in the college's human resources department, was unable to provide specifics about the investigation into Morris, pending its completion. She did say that the department is "hoping" to get the investigation done by the end of the week, but said that it may not conclude until next week.

“We want to make sure it's thorough, so it may be longer," Lillehaugen said.

A public records search revealed that Morris pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in December of last year, for which he received a suspended 30-day jail sentence and a $1,500 fine, half of which was also suspended pending good behavior.

Lillehaugen confirmed that LRSC knew of the DUI and said that the school handles such issues on a "case-by-case" basis.

“There’s nothing in his personnel file about it, but I am aware that he did report it to his supervisor," she said.

She also said that she believes the school will issue a statement following its investigation. She could not say whether or not the DUI was a factor in the school's decision, or if the investigation into the alleged inappropriate relationships is the sole reason for Morris's dismissal.

Morris's bio, which could still be found at the LRSC website as of this writing, says that he "has been coaching baseball at the youth and high school level for 15 years" and is "very active in youth activities in the Devils Lake area and will continue to do so as long as he resides here."