MANATEE COUNTY — A volunteer coordinator recently hired by the Manatee County Government is raising concern among community and former animal shelter volunteers after a Google search revealed past reports that the individual resigned from his previous position as an elementary school principal with the Charlotte County School District under allegations of sexual harassment.
Matthew Loge came to Manatee County Government just a month after the Charlotte County School Board accepted his “resignation in lieu of termination,” according to records.
According to reporting by the Daily Sun, an investigation into the allegations against Loge when he served as a principal found that he had created a “hostile” work environment. The investigation also found that the principal had violated two school district policies related to harassment and sexual harassment.
During a June 13 Charlotte County School Board meeting, members voted to accept Loge’s resignation with little discussion. Documents included in the meeting’s agenda showed Loge was placed on paid leave on May 8, which later became unpaid leave after his resignation. His last official day of employment with the Charlotte County School District was June 30.
Loge submitted his application to Manatee County for the open position of volunteer coordinator less than a month later on July 15.
An unnamed teacher first reported inappropriate incidents to her school’s assistant principal who then reported the allegations to HR officials. Shortly after, district officials contacted an outside attorney to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations.
Less than a month later, the investigation had been completed and a report was provided to the district’s HR department. Many of the details surrounding the allegations were substantiated by witness statements and records of text and social media communications.
The teacher alleged Loge regularly visited her classroom "before school, during planning time, instructional time, and after school." According to the investigative report, while in her classroom, the victim alleged that Loge made regular uninvited comments about her appearance, what she wore, and questions or comments about her “exercise routine.”
The victim also alleged that to avoid being alone with Loge—her supervisor—she reportedly “hid in the closet” lied about having other appointments and had even created an “SOS” code that she could text to two fellow teachers so they knew to immediately come to her classroom so she would not be alone with Loge.
As the investigation was ongoing, Loge, at one point, asked for a demotion.
The investigation confirmed that Loge had sent the unnamed teacher “numerous texts” which when presented with copies of the records he admitted to having sent. Some of the text messages examined during the investigation showed that Loge had sent the following to the teacher:
“How’s the princess this morning?”
“Don’t work out too hard this morning. You don’t need to work out. lol”
“Lol you look like a supermodel.”
“I hope I wasn’t staring.”
“You look beautiful as always… just seeing if you would respond lol”
“I’m being polite and professional lol… my tongue is sore from biting it too much.”
Commenting on her workout routine, the teacher alleged that Loge told her he would "like to see her in her sports bra."
Text records also showed that Loge offered the teacher a ride on at least one occasion after school hours, and in another message told her she “deserved a drink and a pedicure” before telling the teacher it would be “my treat.”
The investigation found Loge texted the teacher about "grade placement" for the next school year, something he allegedly had not offered to other teachers.
Loge apologized for the "inappropriate text messages," the report shows. In the written complaint, the victim alleged she never willingly shared her phone number with Loge.
According to the report, the educator had not reported the inappropriate and unwanted advances because she feared retaliation and was "fearful to come forward based on his (Loge's) position of authority over her."
A witness and fellow teacher who was questioned in the case confirmed much of the victim’s account and that the inappropriate messages from Loge toward the victim had been going on for more than a year.
“Late last month,” the witness provided in her statement, “she (the victim) began to feel as if it had gotten out of hand and he commented when she did not respond to his text message. He asked her whether he could text her and she said it was fine if it was school-related.”
“He sent her a picture of a glass of wine,” the witness told the investigator.
The witness explained that after the teacher had suggested Loge only message her on school-related matters, he located her Facebook account and sent her a message there.
Loge initially denied sending a message through social media, but the victim later produced it during the investigation. Loge sent the message on a Saturday morning. The copy of the Facebook message was included in the investigative report.
The witness also offered that Loge was “old enough to be her father.”
Another witness reported seeing Loge visiting the victim’s classroom “several times a day,” but Loge told the investigator he disagreed with the reported frequency of his visits to the victim’s classroom.
In concluding the investigative findings, the investigator summarized, “I have concluded based on the preponderance of the evidence that Principal Loge has violated District Policies 2266 and 1362.”
The investigator further explained that Loge submitted a written response in the investigation after being confronted with the evidence collected. In his response, Loge wrote that the allegations by the victim of inappropriate comments were “taken out of context" and "may be detrimental to my career."
Loge added, "The statements made by her were embellished and exaggerated. The communication we had in person was professional or at times light-hearted or friendly in nature.”
In response to Loge’s written response to the allegations, the investigator included in the report, “I have found no support for Loge’s explanation. However, even if I had found any support for this explanation, the text messages that Principal Loge admitted to sending, without more, violate Policies 2266 and 1362. The conduct was unwelcome. He was in an authoritative supervisory position with over 25 years of experience in education. There is no excuse for this behavior.”
Policy 2266 prohibits sexual harassment within the district’s education programs and activities. Sexual harassment is defined in part as “Unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the district’s education program or activity.”
Policy 1362 concerns “anti-harassment” to ensure the work environment is free from all forms of unlawful harassment, including sexual harassment.
Based on the evidence and witness interviews, and finding that Loge had violated district policies, the investigator recommended “prompt remedial measures” should be taken to address the “misconduct in the workplace.”
Upon receiving the completed investigative report and reviewing the evidence and information, the district official assigned as “decision-maker” over the case agreed with the conclusions of the independent investigator, and on June 5 recommended that Loge be removed as principal.
A week later, Loge offered his resignation, which the school board accepted in lieu of termination.
Manatee County's Volunteer Program
Manatee County Government recently implemented its revised program for volunteer participation. In July, nearly a dozen animal shelter volunteers were fired from the program without explanation causing outcry by members of the public and the terminated volunteers.
By September, the county commission had approved the “Volunteers in Action Program.”
In a message signed by Manatee County Volunteer Coordinator Loge—and linked to from the Manatee Government website—Loge writes, “This centralization of our volunteer application process will allow us to maintain a more efficient and consistent approach to volunteer recruitment and management. As part of this transition, we will require all volunteers to undergo a mandatory background check and complete the online orientation through the Better Impact platform.”
In his new position, Loge is responsible for managing "one or more" of Manatee County Government's department-specific volunteer programs.
According to the online job description, the county’s volunteer coordinator will “Work with individuals or groups of various ages in indoor/outdoor settings and a variety of weather conditions. Work schedule will regularly include weekends and/or early/late hours.”
The volunteer coordinator will recruit, train, schedule, place, and supervise volunteers within the program. The job description includes that the applicant is preferred to have relevant prior work experience and a Bachelor’s Degree in business administration, education, human resources, or a related field. Mr. Loge has obtained a Master’s Degree in school administration and a B.S. in elementary education.
On the application submitted to the county, Loge only provided that the reason for his leaving the Charlotte County elementary school was because he “resigned.” No other details were provided on the public records reviewed by TBT. However, Loge did select the option that the county could “contact” his previous employer.
Additional records obtained by TBT appeared to show that the county had declined to contact Loge’s previous employers. A background verifications checklist displayed “N/A” as checked off under “previous employment.” The form did show that a background check was completed for Loge on Sept. 12.
Florida’s Department of Education requires that school districts complete an Affidavit of Separation for all educational employees who separate from a district under termination or resignation in lieu of termination. The notarized form records the details of the separation and becomes a public record subject to production when requested.
TBT attempted to reach Manatee County’s PIO and Manatee County Administrator Charlie Bishop by email to request comment on this story. Our email asked whether the county is aware of the circumstances surrounding Loge’s resignation from his previous employment and what measures the county was taking to address any of the public's concerns about Mr. Loge working in a supervisory position over volunteer partners. We received no response to our emailed requests for comment.
Loge officially began in his new position with Manatee County in September, and since that time, some citizens and past/current volunteers have posted on social media about the news reports they found after Googling the new volunteer coordinator’s name.
David Daniels, a former volunteer for Manatee County’s animal services program, told TBT in an email that he was concerned to learn of the past reporting about Loge.
“That they did not even google the man or explore his reason for leaving a career position is just one of many disappointments that confirm how little the county respects the work that volunteers do,” wrote Daniels.
In 2020, Daniels was terminated from the volunteer program by the county, and a subsequent lawsuit was filed in the aftermath. Pulling from his past experience as a volunteer, Daniels shared with TBT that one of his concerns about the allegations against Loge is that the majority of shelter volunteers are females, and often, there is work done outside of operating hours.
“It's no wonder that current volunteers, after internally raising concerns to no avail, are left with a choice of speaking up for a better shelter or risking termination,” Daniels added.
TBT attempted to reach Loge through his county email address to clarify whether he had voluntarily disclosed the circumstances of his resignation from the Charlotte County School District during the interview process with the county and to offer the opportunity to provide comment on the allegations brought against him or on the investigative findings. Despite an initial email and follow-up, we did not receive a response to our request for comment prior to this story’s publication deadline.
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