FSU’s Dean of School of Physician Assistant Practice Resigns Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations

FSU’s Dean of School of Physician Assistant Practice Resigns Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations

An investigation by Florida State University that was finalized on January 4, 2022, resulted in the resignation of James C. Zedaker, the founding director of the university’s School of Physician Assistant Practice. According to information released by Florida State, the investigation found Zedaker violated the school’s anti-sexual misconduct policy.

In addition to his role for the School of Physician Assistant Practice, Zedaker led the university’s COVID-19 vaccine and testing clinic as the director of university special projects for Health and Emergency Operations.

According to the report by investigators, Zedaker most likely made unwelcome romantic or sexual advances, “creating a hostile work environment,” toward three FSU COVID-19 clinic employees while in a position of institutional authority.

Local media confirmed that a former university employee who worked in the COVID-19 clinic filed a complaint on November 2, 2021, against Zedaker, which sparked an immediate investigation. Zedaker resigned from the university on December 17, 2021, and his resignation was effective Friday, January 14, 2022.

Investigators were informed by a former employee, who gave them text messages that occurred between her and Zedaker to support her allegations. She said at first, Zedaker was friendly and gave her positive remarks about her work ethic, but eventually, the tone shifted.

She explained he began commenting on her looks and asking her to send photos of herself. Also, he invited her out of town on multiple occasions and said he would pay for the expenses. He also secured her a one-time bonus of $5,000 for hazard pay.

She further told investigators that she felt “very trapped in a very uneven power dynamic” after the frequent text messages. When she began to distance herself from him, he retaliated by ignoring her in hallways but addressing others she was with and overstaffing areas while leaving her section understaffed. She eventually took a job with a $15,000 pay cut to escape the “sexual and professional harassment.”

Another former employee, who says she too left due to Zedaker’s action, came forward and gave similar accounts. She stated that Zedaker texted her every day about personal matters, bought her FSU-branded towels, invited her out of town, and made many other advances. Furthermore, she informed investigators that she received a $10-an-hour raise, and Zedaker said he wanted to take care of her.

Zedaker had two interviews with investigators and refused to sign the interview notes at both. In the beginning, he denied any sexual/romantic intentions. However, he did admit to violating university policy. He acknowledged giving a third employee more than $3,000 to pay for her tuition and money for her rent, car insurance, utilities, cell phone, and other expenses.

“This was a target hit from a disgruntled worker. It also has nothing to do with our program. This was from COVID Site,” Zedaker wrote in an email acquired by Florida Politics. “I have been traumatized through this whole process and ask that you do not believe what you read.”

The university’s College of Medicine Dean John Fogarty announced that Associate Program Director Benjamin Smith has been appointed interim director.

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