SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The chief operating officer for the Sarasota County School District has resigned after he was notified that his contract will be terminated following the release of a report that he sexually harassed his assistant.
A school board member tells ABC7 that the district’s COO and assistant superintendent Jeffrey Maultsby turned in his resignation to Superintendent Dr. Todd Bowden, who accepted the resignation. The district tells ABC7 that Maultsby resigned Monday, the same day he was notified by the superintendent that his contract was being terminated, giving him 15 days to respond to and appeal the decision.
A 118-page report from Sproat Workplace Investigations, a third party hired by the School Board, determined that Maultsby sexually harassed his assistant, Cheraina Bonner, and created a hostile work environment when he threatened to retaliate against her for reporting her concerns.
Sproat interviewed at least 22 people about the alleged harassment, as well as reviewed more than 800 text messages and videos as evidence. Documentation shows Maultsby responded to the allegations by claiming he and Bonner were “always joking."
“At the end of the day, we have high standards for our employees,” said Superintendent Bowden. "I think we have even higher standards for people that occupy positions of chief operating officer and assistant superintendent. And it was very clear to me after reading all of the interviews and examining all of the exhibits that Mr. Maultsby was not living up to those standards.”
But another one of the reports’ findings is that Bowden did not take prompt or appropriate steps to investigate Bonner’s claims. In fact, investigators determined once Bonner reported Maultsby to Bowden, Bowden went right to Maultsby and told him what she said.
“I do not believe that once we’ve had a chance to examine the report and receive my rebuttal, that I’ve done anything that warrants the same response that Mr. Maultsby received, but ultimately that’s a decision that’s left up to the board," said Bowden in response to the report.
At least one member of the School Board disagrees, calling for Bowden to resign.
“If you don’t take this seriously, what do you take seriously?" questioned School Boardmember Bridget Ziegler. "I believe that the report speaks for itself. I believe that the findings were substantial. I believe that the evidence was substantial and I believe really, the time has come for the board to not deliberate any further but to consider out what is the best plan forward for our future, for our community, for our students.”
Bowden says he plans to respond to the report’s findings at a special meeting with the school board on November 5, which begins at noon. He said he isn’t comfortable discussing his opinion before then, but did add that he disagrees with the report findings and several conclusions made by Sproat.