King Leer

What the Herald and FIU don't want you to know about the paper's top high school sportswriter

The report wasn't quite complete. On the first page, Eisner had scribbled the following note to her secretary: "There may be a need for some additional followup (see p. 6). But I'm hoping we're close to the end." On page six was a passage that read, "need to fill in here on his statement that women in athletics have offered him support after I hear back from Pedro." This loose end did not stop her from writing the following conclusion: "The weight of the evidence shows Mr. Fonteboa's defense(s) to be either pretextual or unconvincing. The seven complainants, and the witnesses who support [their] allegations, are more credible than [is] Mr. Fonteboa's assertion that the allegations are directly or indirectly in retaliation for his having filed a 'whistle-blower' complaint against Dr. Aceto. Therefore, it is believed that Mr. Fonteboa's behavior did create an ongoing, pervasive hostile work environment for a number of women in the Department of Athletics."

Although Eisner didn't buy Fonteboa's conspiracy theory, it's true the assistant athletic director had accused his superiors of malfeasance. Witnesses in Ewing and Rickey's suit offered mountains of testimony about the tumultuous early months of 1996 in the FIU athletics department. By May of that year, at least four separate investigations were under way. In addition to the probe of Fonteboa's harassment:

*Alfredo Acin, FIU's inspector general, was looking into the existence of office betting pools on the men's and women's college basketball tournaments, and of "fantasy leagues." Both are potential (albeit minor) violations of NCAA rules against gambling. Fonteboa initiated this investigation by complaining to Acin. Ted Aceto, Jr., was involved in the pools and the fantasy leagues.

*Acin also was investigating allegations that Ted Aceto, Sr., misused his parking and car-allowance privileges, improperly accepted gifts, and engaged in nepotism.

*Acin was examining charges that Fonteboa had stolen from the university by padding his expense account and inappropriately accepting a gift.

All of Acin's investigations were eventually completed. Yes, there were office pools and fantasy leagues in violation of NCAA rules; the university transferred Aceto Jr. to another office in April 1996. He resigned from FIU a few months later.

Some of Fonteboa's allegations against Ted Sr. were found to be groundless, but Acin still concluded Aceto showed "a pattern of conduct unbecoming of an FIU official."

In September 1996 Acin forwarded this report to FIU president Mitch Maidique and vice president Paul Gallagher for "consideration and appropriate action." Aceto resigned from FIU in March 1997, citing philosophical differences with Maidique regarding issues such as changing athletic conferences and starting a Division I-A football program.

The theft allegations against Fonteboa were taken care of in Fonteboa's exit agreement. Fonteboa told Gallagher that some funds were missing as a result of bookkeeping mistakes; in his resignation deal, Fonteboa was required to pay $1500 to the university "for certain travel and meal expenses."

Gallagher said he never told Eisner not to finish her report. He testified in the Ewing case he couldn't remember all the details. "Dr. Eisner knew that we had reached, or were reaching, an agreement with Mr. Fonteboa. The policy would be I assume ... that a report would not be issued because the person left the university."

That wasn't good enough for Sunnie Ewing. "I just wanted to find that report, so [Fonteboa] can't say this never happened," Ewing declares. "Without [Eisner's] report, he's free to come out in the Herald and say, 'These women having been lying about me.'"

The Herald hired Fonteboa full-time in January 1997 as its top high school sportswriter. His position as a Herald employee did not stop the paper from covering the Ewing lawsuit. In September 1997, two months after the suit was filed, staff writer David Lyons wrote a news story about it that quoted Ewing and Rickey's complaint. It also quoted Fonteboa and described his settlement with FIU, mentioning the line about the Office of Equal Opportunity allegations only as an assertion by the plaintiffs.

Despite the disingenuous treatment of the issue by the Herald and FIU, Ewing wants parents to consider this: "When Fonteboa is standing on the sideline with all the cheerleaders at a football game, I'm sure parents would like to know that this man has sexually harassed women and students before."

ted_kissell@miaminewtimes.com

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