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Sarasota Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012 5 years ago

Former Van Wezel employee files harassment complaint


The former director of education and community engagement at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall filed a sexual-harassment complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) last month, according to paperwork the federal commission sent to the city.

In a written notification dated Oct. 24, the commission notified the city’s Human Resources Department of the complaint filed by Robert S. Warren, who joined the city-owned and -operated hall as a contract employee in 2010, and served as the full-time education director from 2011 until his resignation in October.

According to the paperwork, Warren contends he was forced to quit due to sexual harassment over a period of 10 months at Van Wezel.

The notification was sent days after the start of the Van Wezel’s 2012-2013 season — one that comes on the heels of last year’s 170-show season that capped the hall’s recent transition from a city entity that required an annual subsidy to one that is now in the black.

The EEOC is investigating Warren’s complaint, and, as of this week, additional information, or action, had not yet been requested from the city.

The complaint was filed after the former employee resigned from the performing-arts hall, said Kurt Hoverter, director of human resources with the city.

The notice shows that the alleged incidents happened from Jan. 2 to Oct. 2. The federal commission did not disclose any details about the charges.

Warren could not be reached for comment.

Mary Bensel, executive director of the Van Wezel, said she was aware that the city received a notification of charges and that she did not know any other additional information about the complaint.

“I know nothing else, and I am just getting ready for the opening of the season,” Bensel said.

The city of Sarasota’s public information officer, Jan Thornburg, issued this comment as part of a statement Thursday, Nov. 1: “The city of Sarasota strives to ensure that every employee is working in an appropriate professional environment. Any employee allegation is taken seriously. Although the city has been instructed by the EEOC that no action is required at this time, the city is voluntarily moving forward with a thorough review of the complaint.”

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