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Veterans cemetery official won’t return to Bay Pines after investigation

Doug Maddox has been transferred to Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell following sexual harassment complaints.
 
Doug Maddox, at a lectern at Bay Pines National Cemetery on June 26, has been transferred to the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell after an investigation was launched into claims of harassment made by female employees.
Doug Maddox, at a lectern at Bay Pines National Cemetery on June 26, has been transferred to the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell after an investigation was launched into claims of harassment made by female employees. [ JUSTIN GARCIA | Times ]
Published Nov. 2, 2023

The former director of a veterans cemetery in Pinellas County has been permanently transferred to another location after an investigation into sexual harassment claims from female employees.

Doug Maddox has been reassigned from Bay Pines National Cemetery to a position as assistant director at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, according to Eric Schnaible, chief of Public Affairs & Outreach at the National Cemetery Administration. It comes after two female employees told the Tampa Bay Times in July that Maddox had created a hostile work environment for them.

Anthony Ramos is serving as acting director of Bay Pines, he said Wednesday during a phone call. A job listing for a new assistant cemetery director was recently posted on USAJOBS.gov.

Two female employees who reported to Maddox filed complaints about his behavior, saying he bullied employees and made demeaning comments about women. One said he also made inappropriate comments to women who were making plans to bury their husbands. She filed a federal complaint in 2022.

The other complainant, Jennifer Jones, 43, started working at Bay Pines in November 2021. A Navy veteran, she left the cemetery office to go on deployments for months at a time. But whenever she returned to work she said she faced bullying and inappropriate comments about her attire from Maddox.

One time when she was wearing a skirt that went beneath her knees, Maddox told her, “Your skirt is too long, most girls wear them at the knee or above.”

She said she told Maddox that he made her feel very uncomfortable and submitted a sexual harassment complaint to human resources in March. When a Times reporter approached her in July, she said management pressured her not to talk to the media about her experience. She shared an email that shows she was also forced to submit a statement to management about her interaction with the reporter, under threat of termination.

Her harassment complaint was dropped with little investigation, she said. Out of frustration, she quit Bay Pines in July. At the time, she was working as an administrative specialist.

“I feel like I was forced out the door,” Jones said.

Jones said that upper management isn’t taking the claims of harassment as seriously as they should and that transferring Maddox to another location is a “slap on the wrist.”

Maddox did not respond to emailed requests for comment on this story.

Bay Pines National Cemetery is part of the National Cemetery Administration, an arm of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Schnaible said in an email that the VA “does not comment on personnel actions.”

Communications director Ricardo Da Silva said in July that the agency is “committed to ensuring a safe, welcoming, and harassment-free environment for all Veterans, employees, and visitors.”