The Sarasota County School Board hired an Orlando-based attorney to conduct an investigation into retaliation complaints filed against Superintendent Todd Bowden and Booker High School Principal Rachel Shelley.
Suzanne D’Agresta and Richard Blystone, of the law firm Garganese, Weiss, & D’Agresta, P.A., will investigate the complaint at a rate of $180 an hour.
D’Agresta specializes in local government law and has “performed significant legal work” for school boards in Florida, according to the firm’s website.
The complaint was filed by Lyna Jimenez-Ruiz, who accused Bowden, her direct supervisor in 2016, of engaging in sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. Another law firm conducted an investigation and found her claims at the time “unfounded.”
In November 2017, Jimenez-Ruiz filed a complaint alleging that Bowden and Shelley retaliated against her for coming forward in 2016. The district would not release the complaint because of the ongoing investigation.
At a December meeting, board members voted unanimously to authorize Board Chairwoman Bridget Ziegler, District Legal Counsel Art Hardy and Assistant Superintendent Scott Lempe to hire an outside investigator to look into the complaints.
At the same meeting, board members voted 4-1 in favor of Bowden’s request to have the board reimburse him for the costs of hiring legal counsel, per his contract. Ziegler dissented.