- November 19, 2019
On Tuesday, Superintendent finalist Todd Bowden voluntarily released a 97-page report following a three-week harassment investigation.
According to the report, the School District of Sarasota County, led by Superintendent Lori White, commissioned an independent investigation out of “an abundance of caution” in response to rumored allegations of harassment and creation of a hostile work environment by Bowden. The independent report was conducted by Sarasota-based Hultman Sensenig + Joshi, a labor and employment law firm. No official complaint was filed with the school district.
Witnesses were interviewed over the course of three weeks beginning Sept. 15, five days before Bowden was shortlisted to replace White when she retires in February.
The report includes interviews from two former employees at Suncoast Technical College, where Bowden serves as director. The pair have since left Suncoast Technical College.
According to interviews included in the report, Lyna Jimenez-Ruiz alleged that Bowden, her direct supervisor, engaged in sexual harassment and created a hostile working environment. She also alleged he discriminated against her because of her sex and took retaliatory actions against her. The other woman to make allegations, Susan Forrest, stated that Bowden harassed her by making inappropriate remarks and making her feel uncomfortable on several occasions. She was not supervised directly by Bowden.
In the 97-page report, investigators found all of Jimenez-Ruiz's claims to be unfounded, and deemed Forrest’s allegation of harassment to be inconclusive.
The report was submitted to pertinent parties, including Bowden and White, on Monday.
“The investigation has concluded and the report was submitted yesterday to Superintendent Lori White and to the affected employees,” district spokesman Scott Ferguson said in an email. “After reviewing the report in detail, Mrs. White determined that there was no basis for disciplinary action.”
White, along with Deputy Superintendent Scott Lempe, declined to comment specifically on the matter.
The report was scheduled to be released into public record per Florida statute next week; however, Bowden released the report himself Tuesday afternoon.
“Since Dr. Bowden was basically exonerated and all the allegations and rumors were found to be uncorroborated and unfounded, we wanted to just get it out there because he has a huge interview he is getting ready for next week,” Bowden’s spokeswoman Candice McElyea said.
The school board will interview Bowden, along with fellow superintendent candidates Mark Porter and Brennan Asplen III, on Oct. 12 and 13. A finalist will be selected on Oct. 18 during the school board’s regular meeting.
For now, Bowden said he hopes releasing the details of the investigation will help clear up what he says are unfounded allegations.
“I’m optimistic that by getting the report out to you and giving people the opportunity to see the report in its entirety and digest it, that you’ll see that these rumors are completely unfounded,” Bowden said.
Click here for the full report.