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Investigative report finds Lee County School Board member Chris Patricca created "hostile working environment"

Posted at 10:49 PM, Jan 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-25 05:17:06-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A heated school board meeting as allegations of a hostile work environment take center stage following an investigative report within the district.

Lee County School Board member Chris Patricca is under fire after an investigative report found a pattern of bullying and demeaning behavior, leading to school leaders taking action tonight.

The school board took almost all night to address the issue. Quite a few people spoke during public comment, some of them even former board members themselves.

This investigative report dates back to May 12, 2022, when school board attorney Kathy Dupuy-Bruno filed a written complaint, hoping to get whistleblower protection. The allegation was that board member Chris Patricca engaged in a pattern of bullying and demeaning behavior toward Dupuy-Bruno and created a hostile working environment.

The investigation took place over the course of six months with 12 witnesses, including Patricca and other board members.

Former school board members delivered a few remarks during public comment. Former members Gwynetta Gittens and Betsy Vaughn both addressed the board, saying they can attest to the reports being factual.

“It was my experience and what I went thru," said Gittens. "I didn’t have to make up anything. So whether the investigator was good or not, the information she got from me was the truth.”

“I can attest to the fact that demeaning behavior is part of Ms. Patricca’s M.O.,” said Vaughn.

The board voted to accept the investigative reports, barely passing 4 to 3 with Patricca rejecting the findings.

But the board unanimously agreed on one thing— voting to require all board members to take bullying and harassment training, as well as attend and participate in a whistleblower and retaliation workshop. Meaning board members will need to complete that training by October 1.

As for the allegations against Patricca, there is no word just yet on if she will face any consequences.