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East County Friday, Jan. 17, 2020 8 months ago

School District of Manatee County's general counsel required to undergo sensitivity training

Investigation concludes there was 'not a violation of any law.'
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Mitchell Teitelbaum, School District of Manatee County's general counsel, must complete three courses on sensitivity training in the workplace within the next 30 days as a result of a district investigation regarding his "conduct and unwelcome comments made to employees of an outside agency."

Teitelbaum was put on paid administrative leave Jan. 10 after Superintendent Cynthia Saunders received a phone call complaint regarding "inappropriate conduct and comments." 

Stephen Dye, the School Board of Manatee County's attorney, was tasked with investigating the complaint because Teitlebaum oversees the district's Office of Professional Standards, "which plays an integral role in the investigation of allegations of staff misconduct," according to the district's website.

Dye began his investigation Jan. 10 and interviewed Saunders, Teitlebaum and individuals associated with the source of the complaint. The investigation was completed Jan. 15. 

In a letter from Saunders to Teitelbaum dated Jan. 16, Saunders stated he must adjust how he interacts with people including district staff, and all conduct must be professional.

"As general counsel of the School District of Manatee County, you are expected and directed to hold yourself to a higher standard of conduct," Saunders wrote. "The situation you created has compromised the district and the integrity of your work."

In an emailed statement from Teitelbaum sent through district spokesman Michael Barber, Teitelbaum apologized for "any statements I have made that were deemed inappropriate."

"That was never my intent," he wrote. "This has been a lifetime learning experience for me, and there will be no reoccurrence on my part. Moving forward, I will hold myself to the highest professional standards possible. I am grateful for the support of the School Board members and superintendent, and I will work fervently and faithfully to justify that support."

The district provided a redacted copy of the investigation, which censored the name of all complainants. 

Some of the complaints were regarding "flirting, oversharing and comments on appearance," according to the investigation report.

The agency said it was "only requesting that Mr. Teitelbaum change the manner in which he communicated," and no further action would be taken, according to Dye's report.

"I was not able to interview the actual parties complaining about Mr. Teitelbaum's behavior, and therefore, it's here-say and being presented by corporate managers who are concerned with their own liability," Dye wrote in the report.

In his interview with Dye, Teitelbaum said he had "absolutely no interest in a person relationship" with the complainants and "expressed sorrow that he had offended anybody and caused problems for his employer."

Both Saunders and Dye counseled Teitelbaum on the manner in which he interacts with people, and he "needed to interact in a more professional and less casual fashion."

Dye wrote the complaints were from an outside agency and "therefore not a violation of any law." He concluded the "truthfulness of the complaints were not confirmed, and there was no evidence to support the complainants." 

"There are no in-house complaints concerning Mr. Teitelbaum's communication or conduct from any district staff," Dye wrote. 

Teitelbaum returned to work Jan. 16.


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