Investigator's report faults Sarasota County school administrators over harassment claim

A third-party investigation into Sarasota County schools assistant superintendent and chief operating officer Jeff Maultsby has been released. The investigation came after Cheraina Bonner brought forward allegations of sexual harassment, intimidation, and threats. 

"I have been insulted, belittled and humiliated," Bonner said in September. 

In front of the school board and a crowd, Bonner gathered her courage and spoke out last month at a board meeting against Maultsby. 

"As a victim, I have reported allegations of sexual harassment and hostile work environment by my superior and for weeks nothing happened," she said. 

Bonner claims Maultsby sexually harassed her for months. She gave an example of a video she said he sent her at 1 a.m. on Christmas. 

"Here I am Miss Reina. I'm not going to tell you what I'm doing. I'm just going to talk to you," said Maultsby in the video. 

She claims threats came next. One by text, reading, "snitches get stitches."  

It worried her enough that she made a report to Sarasota County deputies. 

"Here's where he would text me ‘I love you.’ Why? I don’t know. That’s just disturbing," she said in an interview tape. 

In April, Bonner reported the harassment to Sarasota schools. Maultsby remained on the job until June, when he was placed on administrative leave. 

Four months later, a 100-plus-page report from a third-party investigator reveals Bonner's allegations are credible. 

The report states: 

-"There is sufficient evidence to conclude that Jeff Maultsby sexually harassed Cheraina Bonner and that he created a hostile work environment." 

-"There is sufficient evidence to conclude that Jeff Maultsby threatened to retaliate against Cheraina Bonner for reporting her concerns." 

-"There is sufficient evidence to conclude that Dr. Todd Bowden's actions played a primary role in the District's failure to promptly and adequately address Bonner's claims of sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation and threatening behavior." 

-"There is sufficient evidence that Alfred Harayda's actions played a secondary role in the District's failure to promptly and adequately address Cheraina Bonner's claims of sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, and threatening behavior." 

“Regardless of the final conclusions, the process didn't work," said Dr. Bowden. 

On Monday, Dr. Bowden said he's recommending Maultsby be fired. He'll have 15 days to appeal the decision. 

The board will also look into the lack of actions from Bowden. 

"I ask that they allow me the opportunity to respond to the report before passing judgment on my behavior or how I’ve acted," he said. 

Boardmember Bridget Ziegler said more needed to be done. 

"I think there was a real opportunity to do the right thing from the get-go and that did not happen. We need to set an example and let them know this type of behavior will not stand," said Ziegler. 

Bonner's attorney, Sara Blackwell, said all of this could have been avoided if her client's claims had been properly vetted. 

"This is not one of those cases of sexual harassment where you don’t really know what’s true and not true. As soon as those text messages came forward, as soon as all of this came out, Maultsby should not have been placed on paid administrative leave. He should have been terminated," Blackwell added.