SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - A months-long investigation into sexual harassment allegations against the Sarasota County School District chief operating officer is finally complete.
A third party was hired by the Sarasota County School Board to investigate the claims made by Cheraina Bonner against her boss, COO and assistant superintendent, Jeffrey Maultsby. Bonner was Maultsby’s assistant and says she was sexually harassed then faced discrimination and retaliation when she reported the harassment to the District’s Superintendent, Dr. Todd Bowden.
Sara Blackwell is the attorney representing Bonner. She said she received a copy of the investigator’s 118-page report this week, six months after Bonner said she first reported the alleged sexual harassment to Dr. Bowden, Maultsby’s boss.
“For a sexual harassment victim, it is very helpful to them to have an outsider come in, do an investigation and say, ‘What you said is true,’” said Blackwell, commenting on Bonner’s emotional state after her client saw the report.
Sproat Workplace Investigations, operated by Vicki Sproat, was the third party hired at $225 an hour to investigate Bonner’s claims.
“The outside investigator was retained by the school doard and paid for by taxpayer dollars,” said Blackwell. "I was afraid that the report would not be fair, because she was retained by the school board, but there was 118 pages of details.”
Sproat took numerous depositions and poured over 800 text messages and videos. Sproat’s report concludes there is enough evidence that Maultsby did sexually harass Cheraina Bonner and that he did create a hostile work environment.
“He’s been on paid leave. I hope they terminate him immediately after seeing this report,” said Blackwell. "I can’t believe it hasn’t been that he’s been fired already.”
Blackwell said the “snitches get stitches” text Maultsby allegedly sent to Bonner was also detailed in the report. The investigator found it reasonable for Bonner to interpret that text, as well as an article he sent her of a whistleblower’s murder, to be threatening of retaliation.
When Bonner went to Dr. Bowden with her fears, Blackwell said Sproat found enough evidence to determine Dr. Bowden failed to adequately address the allegations, despite his claims he acted accordingly when presented with the details.
“That’s a huge issue,” Blackwell said. "He is the head of the entire school system of the entire school system of the County of Sarasota. We have enough integrity and enough truth and care for our teachers and students that we don’t want a leader who lies under oath.”
The Sarasota County School District said it is held by law to not comment on the investigative report until October 28th, but staff also wanted to be clear that it’s not that they don’t have a comment, they are simply restricted.
Maultsby was placed on leave in June, still collecting a $183,000 salary, according to the school district.