Bay Pines cemetery director reassigned while harassment reports investigated

An email sent to Veterans Administration leaders accuses them of not protecting employees who reported their boss for creating a toxic workplace.
Doug Maddox, director of Bay Pines National Cemetery, makes a speech during a Memorial Day event. He was allowed to take part even though he is under investigation after employees complained he created a toxic work environment.
Doug Maddox, director of Bay Pines National Cemetery, makes a speech during a Memorial Day event. He was allowed to take part even though he is under investigation after employees complained he created a toxic work environment. [ JUSTIN GARCIA | Times ]
Published July 13|Updated July 13

ST. PETERSBURG — Doug Maddox stood at the lectern on Memorial Day to emphasize the importance of honoring and respecting those who served in America’s wars.

Maddox, director of Bay Pines National Cemetery, said that for himself, his staff and his volunteers, every day is like Memorial Day.

A crowd of hundreds watched as Maddox gave his speech, most of them unaware that he had recently been transferred to another cemetery pending an investigation into his leadership.

“My team lays to rest veterans, or family of those veterans, providing them the respect and dignity they so richly deserve,” he told the crowd. “We can never underestimate or over-appreciate the service and sacrifice of our veterans and their families.”

Two female employees watching him speak that day told the Tampa Bay Times they couldn’t believe that he was invited to the event after they had both filed complaints against him alleging sexual harassment — concerns that were echoed by the employees union. Both women are veterans.

One of the women said Maddox, her boss, had bullied employees and made demeaning comments about women. She filed a federal complaint almost a year ago, she said. She declined to share further details about the case.

An email sent by the union that represents government workers obtained through a Freedom of Information Act confirms that Maddox was reassigned pending an investigation.

“It’s awful, it’s stressful, it’s humiliating,” the woman said after attending the Memorial Day event at Bay Pines. She requested not to be named out of fear of retaliation.

Maddox, 62, also made inappropriate comments to women who were making plans to bury their husbands, the employee said. She said she witnessed Maddox flirt with multiple grieving women, including telling one widow: “I can tell you took your vitamins today.”

When a grieving family approached him about an issue at the cemetery, she said Maddox told them, “I’ve never had so many women come at me at once.”

The woman said she was upset that Maddox was invited to speak at the event even though he had been transferred to the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell on April 26 pending the investigation. The two cemeteries are part of the National Cemetery Administration, an arm of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I think the team was doing really well without him here, but it caused a lot of anxiety just to have him come back,” the woman told the Times.

When reached by phone on June 7, Maddox initially said he was unaware of the allegations against him and his transfer to Bushnell. When asked if that was his statement for the record, he said, “I’m just saying, I normally don’t make a comment on anything pertaining to myself or anybody else.”

Maddox referred the Times to Ricardo Da Silva, director of communications for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration. Da Silva said that the agency cannot comment on personnel actions or investigations but is “committed to ensuring a safe, welcoming, and harassment-free environment for all Veterans, employees, and visitors.”

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Subscribe to our free DayStarter newsletter

We’ll deliver the latest news and information you need to know every weekday morning.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

The federal agency’s website states that it takes all reports of harassment seriously and will investigate and take appropriate action.

Times reporters on May 31 requested copies of any complaints filed against Maddox and emails between him and Kirk Leopard, executive director of the Florida National Cemetery. The documents had not been provided as of press time.

A second female employee filed a sexual harassment report against Maddox with the human resources office in March, she said. She also requested not to be named.

“What I can say is that there are issues, that I did file a report, and yes, he makes me feel really uncomfortable,” she said.

She said she could not share further details about the claim due to ongoing mediation.

American flags seen by tombstones at Bay Pines National Cemetery in St. Petersburg one day before Memorial Day.
American flags seen by tombstones at Bay Pines National Cemetery in St. Petersburg one day before Memorial Day. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Both of the Bay Pines employees are represented by the American Federation of Government Employees Local 548. Union executive vice president Austin Peterson said he cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.

But after the Memorial day event, the union complained that Maddox was allowed to take part while he is the subject of an ongoing investigation. His presence put him in close proximity with the employees who had reported him, according to email exchanges.

The complaint was made in a June 1 email to Leopard, who is also Maddox’s boss. The name of the union official who sent it was redacted but it includes the union’s logo in the signature.

In the email, union officials said they have instructed their members to file new charges of “harassment, discrimination and retaliation.”

“By allowing this, they felt unprotected by leadership. This is appalling!” the email states about Maddox speaking at the event. “Mr. Leopard, our confidence in your leadership has thus far faded.”

Maddox joined Bay Pines in August 2020 after serving about two years as assistant funeral director at Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery, according to his page.

He attended U.S. Army Command and General Staff College for three years through 1999. After leaving the military, he earned a master’s degree in leadership from Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2017.

Accusations of harassment have been made against other Bay Pines executives in the past.

In 2017, Chalea Weeks, who worked in the social work department of Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, filed federal complaints that she and other female employees were being bullied and harassed by supervisors. She was later fired for being disruptive.

A request for a copy of her complaint was denied by Veterans Administration Office of Policy, Compliance & Oversight, which stated that personnel complaints are considered private.

Twenty-five days after the Memorial Day event, a Times reporter traveled to Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.

Maddox turned up for work in the morning at the main office. He said he could not comment.