School business administrator resigns amid investigation

Farnsworth had been HMK principal, high school math teacher

In this 2008 photo, Robert Farnsworth prepares for the upcoming school year as the principal of Helen M. Knight Elementary school. Farnsworth recently resigned amid a school district investigation against him over allegations of sexual harassment. File photo

Amid an investigation by the Grand County School District into allegations of sexual harassment by longtime district employee Robert Farnsworth, the district placed the former business administrator on administrative leave, and on Dec. 20, he signed an agreement to resign his position, effective immediately.

In a letter to Farnsworth, School District Superintendent JT Stroder notified him that he had had been placed on leave, pending the conclusion of the investigation. According to Stroder, Farnsworth resigned before the investigation ended, and his last day on the job was Dec. 19.

According to Stroder, the investigation reached no conclusion and is no longer being pursued.

A separation agreement between the school district and Farnsworth, signed and dated Dec. 20, requires that Farnsworth “direct all employment-related inquiries” to the school district. The agreement also stipulates that the school district, unless otherwise required by law, “shall respond by providing the following: dates worked, job titles held, salary at time of departure,” and the fact that Farnsworth, who is 49, “voluntarily resigned from his employment with the district.”

When asked about the investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, Farnsworth said he was “not really supposed to discuss that” because, he said, the separation agreement requires him not to discuss the matter.

Stroder confirmed the existence of the investigation and Farnsworth being placed on administrative leave, but when asked if the school district would give Farnsworth permission to defend himself against the allegations by talking about them, Stroder said that it would not do so.

Little more has been shared publicly about the allegations and subsequent investigation, and nobody affected by the alleged harassment has yet to speak publicly. Stroder, School District Board Chair Melissa Byrd and Board Member Jim Webster each declined to comment further Tuesday on the nature of Farnsworth’s resignation and the investigation that led up to it.

According to Stroder, the district board is looking to fill the business administrator position on an interim basis. Farnsworth had originally filled the position for five months following the death of former business administrator Doug Cannon in September of 2009. Farnsworth was hired permanently to the position the following February.

Prior to becoming the interim business administrator, Farnsworth served as the principal of Helen M. Knight Elementary School and, before then, as a math teacher for the school district. He was first hired by the school district in August 1997.

At the time of his resignation, Farnsworth had been leading two major efforts that will now fall into new hands, the first being the construction of Grand County’s new middle school and the second, transitioning the district onto new financial software.