Lawyers for Flagler College, St Augustine’s private four-year undergraduate liberal arts college, are fighting charges that stem from alleged sexual misconduct by Sheriff David Shoar’s undersheriff, Joel Bolante, during the time he was employed to investigate sexual misconduct on campus.
Bolante was promoted after these allegations were brought to light. Now, he directs the public administration program. Historic City News editor Michael Gold is a graduate of that course of study under its founding program director, Don Burgland PhD.
Attorney Ryan Williams with Coastal Law Group in Ponte Vedra Beach is representing the plaintiff; a Doctor of Philosophy who was highly reviewed by her peers and had recently accepted a three-year extension of her teaching contract. That is until February 2018 when she blew the whistle on Bolante — accusing him of “maintaining inappropriate sexual relationships” with students and others, including staff.
The plaintiff became a professor at Flagler College in 2003. In 2017, she had a performance review that ranked her 5-out-of-5 and noted that she made “very meaningful contributions to the criminology program.” She was reappointed to the faculty. However, following an “internal investigation” in which she was not interviewed, she was terminated by Flagler College in June 2018. In the lawsuit, she claims that she was fired in retaliation for exposing Joel Bolante’s sexual misconduct.
Before Bolante started work at Flagler College, the complaint states that more than one witness came forward to warn the school about Bolante’s behavior while he worked for Shoar, but the school never investigated. The witnesses stated that no one from the college contacted them for a statement.
Historic City News reached out Monday in a public records request to the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office records custodian, asking for “electronic copies of any complaints received by the agency, either internal or external, administrative, civil, or criminal, made against former employee Joel S Bolante; together with the adjudication of any Internal Affairs Investigation.” The response received today states, “The St Johns County Sheriff’s Office has reviewed its files and has determined there are no responsive documents to your request.”
The case was moved from the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court in St Johns County after Williams filed an amended complaint in the Federal District Court. The case is now being heard by Judge Tim Corrigan. The college has already been sanctioned by the court for missing a deadline to respond to the amended complaint.
Flagler College’s vice president for marketing and communications, Carol Branson, told local reporters, “This is an active legal proceeding, so unfortunately, I am unable to provide a comment on the lawsuit at this time.” Historic City News contacted the plaintiff for a statement, however, on advice of counsel, she was unable to respond. We offered her attorney the opportunity to respond by e-mail, but he has declined. The amended complaint contains more than 100-pages of details, parts of which we will publish in future articles.