BELGRADE — Nearly one month after being placed on administrative leave, Belgrade athletic director Rick Phillips returned to his position on Wednesday.
The decision came after a nearly four-hour school board meeting held at Belgrade High School on Tuesday night. Phillips confirmed to MTN Sports that he would resume his regular responsibilities as athletic director beginning Wednesday, but would comment no further.
Phillips, Montana’s 2014 athletic director of the year, was placed on administrative leave in late February, less than two weeks before Belgrade hosted the combined Class B boys and girls basketball state tournaments. At the time, Belgrade superintendent Godfrey Saunders told MTN Sports he “couldn’t comment on personnel issues.”
According to the school board, in January of 2019 it was discovered that Phillips was accused of mishandling funds during Montana High School Association (MHSA) tournaments hosted at Belgrade by paying tournament workers in cash to an amount that totaled roughly $17,000. The board’s concern was that Phillips was giving money to workers on school district payroll, which would violate tax laws.
Phillips and his lawyer contested that the money being paid to tournament workers was not allocated by Belgrade High School because the money was distributed as part of the bid to secure the tournament. The Gallatin Valley Tournament Committee, which was formed by the Belgrade and Bozeman chambers of commerce, bids on MHSA events for the Gallatin Valley and is responsible for allocating costs.
The school board was expected to hold a vote to determine Phillips’ employment with the school on Tuesday night, but after a closed-door meeting with Phillips and his lawyer, came to a decision to reinstate him.
The school board declined to comment on the decision.