OSPREY — The Sarasota County School Board approved a settlement agreement with administrative assistant Cheraina Bonner on Tuesday night, ending a potential legal battle over Bonner’s complaints of sexual harassment by her boss.
Bonner opted to sign the settlement agreement for $397,241.18. The school district had offered her a second settlement option that would have given her a promotion with an undisclosed monetary amount. A third option was an offer to resign and get $500,000.
In the end, she decided to keep her job and take the lesser amount.
“If I had a choice to have a magic eraser, I would take that over money any day,” Bonner said after the meeting. “What I am looking for now is some closure, and to begin healing.”
Last year, Bonner accused her boss, Chief Operating Officer Jeff Maultsby, of sending her sexually suggestive text messages and creating a hostile work environment. Maultsby was later fired.
School Board members, unhappy with superintendent Todd Bowden’s handling of the matter, reached a mutual agreement with the superintendent to terminate his contract at the end of 2019.
Bonner said it was difficult to go to work in recent weeks as the matter approached a resolution.
“It’s kind of like living a double life, to go to work and appear strong, but come home and break down,” Bonner said as she began to cry. “I understand abuse victims now.”
She plans to continue in her present position as administrative assistant to the chief operating officer.
Bonner came in almost unnoticed 15 minutes into Tuesday night’s meeting, taking a seat with her attorney in the second row of the school board chambers. She had declined to comment until after the board made their vote. Her attorney stated if they did not approve the settlement, they would have to move forward with litigation.
Board chair Caroline Zucker told the Sun^p in a phone call Monday that she is happy to see the board moving forward following the Bonner case, as well as reaching an agreement with the teachers union.
Bonner said her message for people going through the same thing, is to “stand strong, better days will come.”