Questions remain over Sarasota superintendent’s role in sexual harassment allegations that led to resignation of COO

A Deeper Look Into Sexual Harassment Allegations

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - A 118-page report provides a detailed look into the third party investigation of claims that the Sarasota County School District’s assistant superintendent and chief operating officer sexually harassed his assistant, Cheraina Bonner.

Sproat Workplace Investigations was hired by the School Board in June, examining the claims that a district employee Bonner was being sexually harassed by her boss, Assistant Superintendent Jeff Maultsby.

Monday, Maultsby officially resigned after the District announced plans to fire him.

The report details Bonner’s allegations that go far beyond her own alleged sexual harassment. The investigation also reveals claims that Maultsby would make numerous unwelcome sexual comments about other female employees.

For now, Superintendent Dr. Todd Bowden isn’t comfortable responding to the investigators findings that he “did not take prompt or appropriate steps to investigate Bonner’s claims” of sexual harassment, a hostile work environment, retaliation and threatening behavior.

“There are quite a few things in that report that I take exception to, so I look forward to having the opportunity to interact with the Board on November 5th," said Bowden.

The investigation shows a clear timeline of the way things played out.

Maultsby started sending kissy face emojis and I love yous to Bonner in Fall of 2018. He sent her an inappropriate video on Christmas and a “snitches get stitches" threat was made in March of 2019.

Bonner told School Board member Caroline Zucker she was uncomfortable and the two presented her concerns to Bowden in April.

Two weeks later, investigators found Bowden had done nothing but tell Maulstby about the complaints.

Finally in May, an internal investigation begins, with Bowden as the head.

Bowden’s deposition shows he considered Maultsby a friend and said during that initial meeting with Bonner, she repeatedly said she ‘didn’t want to make a big deal of this’ and that it was ‘stupid and immature.’

Bowden also testified that he thought the issue could be resolved informally and had to go to great lengths to get Bonner’s permission to address Maultsby’s behavior, but when Bowden did, he said the text messages stopped.

“Todd talked to Jeff when he came back from vacation, told him you need to make your relationship more business and professional and that happened," said School Board member Shirley Brown of her interpretation of the testimonies. "No more text messages after that. In fact, Raina complained that he was cold to her.”

Brown says after reading the text messages and testimonies in the report, she feels Maultsby and Bonner had a rather friendly relationship.

“I don’t believe that they weighed all the testimony correctly," said Brown. "It was clear that in the beginning, Raina did not want to file a complaint.”

This is a much different opinion than that of another School Board member.

“If I could pick the best scenario, it would be for the Superintendent to pre-preemptively resign,” said School Board member Bridget Ziegler.

The other two members of the School Board who haven’t made a comment have decided not to before Tuesday, November 5, when a special meeting will be held to discuss these findings.

The School Board has the final say of Bowden’s fate. If they do decide to terminate him, it must be a super-majority, 4 to 1 vote.

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