An investigation into coercion allegations launched by the Pasco County School Board in July has cleared former Superintendent Heather Fiorentino, according to TBO.com.
Pasco County School Board members approved the outside investigation of the superintendent and her staff after retired principal Barbara Munz addressed the board on behalf of teachers she said were afraid to come forward on their own.
Many of those teachers felt intimidated and threatened due to political coercion by the superintendent, Munz said at the board's July 3 meeting.
The board approved hiring Tampa attorney Thomas Gonzalez to investigate the allegations at its July 24 meeting. According to TBO.com, though the investigation turned up "no proof" that Fiorentino herself was involved, the report concluded that some administrators' efforts created a perception that others were expected to help with Fiorentino's re-election campaign.
"There clearly were political activities that were closely related to work, even if they did not occur on district property or during working hours," the report stated, according to TBO.com.
Former Hudson Middle School assistant principal Buffy Simon of Land O' Lakes was the first current district employee to come forward to express her concerns about a "hostile work environment" and pressure by her principal, Terry Holback, to attend a fundraiser for Fiorentino.
Gonzalez submitted Monday a report of his findings to school board attorney Dennis Alfonso, TBO.com reported.
The investigation will remain open until the board decides to conclude it because "there remains a substantial amount of information that should be investigated," TBO.com quoted from Gonzalez's report.
"To me this has been nothing more than a witch hunt that started prior to the election," Fiorentino told TBO.com on Tuesday.
Kurt Browning defeated Fiorentino in the August Republican primary. He was sworn in Nov. 20.
Now that the election is over, Fiorentino told TBO.com that the board and Browning should put the investigation behind them, appreciate the "fine staff" working in the district and focus on educating children.
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