District still dealing with lawsuits as Bowden is set to leave
SARASOTA- Superintendent Todd Bowden may be removed from his position next Tuesday, but the district will still need to deal with the fallout from his tenure… including multiple ongoing lawsuits. Including from one woman suing the district for discrimination and retaliation after issuing a sexual harassment complaint against Bowden.
Dr. Lyna Jimenez Ruiz spent years being rated a “highly-effective” administrator.
“Then there was one particular year where things changed and it all went down from there,” Jimenez-Ruiz said. “And it started in July 2015 when I was approached by Todd Bowden, when I turned him down, things changed for me.”
She was at a conference with her boss, then Suncoast Technical College Executive Director Todd Bowden, and she says he insisted on walking her to her hotel.
“He approached me and he said quietly a little subdued are you going to invited me in,” Jimenez-Ruiz said. “And I said to him, no.”
Jimenez-Ruiz initially decided to stay quiet.
“I knew that there was a pattern of the boys club mentality,” Jimenez-Ruiz said. “They would cover each other, everywhere from HR, so if I turned that direction I’d be slammed by him, if I turned that direction I’d be slammed by him.”
She came forward while he was being considered for Superintendent.
“I knew that this was going to hurt me, my career,” Jimenez- Ruiz said. “That’s the pattern it is with this school district, but I needed to do what was right.”
Her evaluation went to “needs improvement” she was transferred to a new school and she her contract was NOT renewed. Her claims were deemed “unfounded” in two investigations but she says they were mishandled.
“Given the opportunity to come back and say can you answer some more questions,” Jimenez-Ruiz said. “I think the investigation would have gone in a whole different direction, given that I would have been represented by my attorney, I assure you it would have gone in a different direction.”
Those investigations did note areas of improvement for the district.
“In both investigations for my case,” Jimenez-Ruiz said. “The recommendation by the investigators were you need to go back and revise policies, it even talked about going back and training individuals.”
Those policies were not changed, and the same failings were found in the Bonner investigation. When asked for comment, the district only noted that it was a pending federal lawsuit still in litigation. The case is currently expected to head to trial in May.