TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Rick Kearney, a millionaire who the Kearney Center homeless shelter is named after, has been sued by the ex-director of the shelter for sexual harassment.
Sarah Bohentin, who was the director of the homeless shelter prior to her removal, is suing Kearney and several other companies who she was previously employed.
Bohentin's attorneys said that when she and Kearney were on good romantic terms, Bohentin was treated well, given a job, promotions, and bonuses.
However when it be came clear to Kearney that she was rejecting him, he developed an interest in a woman who worked under her, referred to in the documents as Jane Doe.
Documents said that, "After accepting that Bohentin was not going to have a sexual relationship with him, Kearney began treating Bohentin poorly--he berated her, he changed the bonus structure that had been agreed upon, and ultimately, terminated her employment."
Bohentin's attorneys said that Kearney had started pursing her romantically in October 2014 while she had a job somewhere else. In mid-December, Kearney suggested that she start working at the Kearney Center, where she got a part time job.
Near the end of February 2015, Bohentin started dating another man and told Kearney that she was in a relationship.
All the same, Kearney made several advances toward her through to April 2015, even attempting to woo her with a car, "if she would only give in and have sex with him."
The court document indicated that Bohentin was promoted to director of the facility at the end of April. Following the announcement, Kearney took Bohentin out to celebrate and during that meal, he asked her to be his girlfriend.
Documents said that, "Bohentin declined his offer and expressed concerns that she might be perceived as receiving special treatment because of Kearney's romantic interest in her."
In mid-May, it seemed like Bohentin's resistance to Kearney's romantic gestures set in and he began to be combative with her but would typically apologize for his aggressive behavior.
In August 2015, an "second in command" under Bohentin began to report about trivial complaints she had and not long after, Bohentin said that she believed the employee and Kearney started up a relationship.
According to the documents, Jane Doe had been telling people that they were together.
On September 26 of this year, Bohentin, who is a Florida Bar Licensed Attorney, spoke with Kearney about legal issues about what the female employee was saying.
She then asked him why he'd been less personally friendly than usual and he responded saying, "Well, you didn't think I'd wait around forever to have sex with you?"
Around Oct. 26, 2015, Bohentin was informed that she would no longer be getting her agreed upon bonus of $10,000, Kearney saying that the bonus was conditional upon her meeting certain criteria. It was also noted in the court documents that the employee also received a pay raise during that time.
She disagreed and approached two board members who approved her bonus and agreed to increase her salary. They told her that the raise would be formally approved at the board's Nov. 13th meeting.
Two days later, Bohentin met with the board again and was told she was being fired and the employee who claimed to be dating Kearney was promoted and performed the same job Bohentin was originally hired to do.
Her attorneys are pressing to sue for actual damages, back pay, reasonable attorney's fees, and any other compensatory pay.
Kearney's lawyers said in a statement that, "Regrettably, Ms. Bohentin has responded with anger, fueled by her intent on vengeance. By seeking punitive damages through a baseless lawsuit, she would effectively shut down the homeless shelter – all because of a personal vendetta against Mr. Kearney.”
Bohentin's lawyer issued this statement in response on her behalf:
“Ms. Bohentin’s lawsuit is not about a personal vendetta. It is about holding people accountable for sexual harassment, regardless of their standing in the community or the amount of money they have. Mr. Kearney’s donations to charitable organizations in the Tallahassee area should not give him a free pass to engage in sexual harassment. It is Mr. Kearney’s reckless disregard for the law that has created this situation, not Ms. Bohentin’s choice to stand up for herself.”