The attorney for suspended Okaloosa County School Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson has doubled down on his assertion that Gov. Ron DeSantis had acted without clear authority to do so in January when he removed her from office.
Attorney George Levesque cited court rulings handed down in 1893 stating that “a governor possessed authority to suspend an officer from only the current term of office — not from prior or future terms of office” in a response filed Monday to the Florida Supreme Court.
Jackson contends she was suspended for actions she is alleged to have taken as superintendent prior to her 2016 re-election to office. Levesque filed a new response in reply to a DeSantis response filed March 20.
The DeSantis response states it is the Florida Senate, and not the Supreme Court, which holds the power to affirm Jackson’s being removed from office or to reinstate her. The Senate has been called upon to hear Jackson’s appeal of her suspension but has stepped back from the hearing process while the Supreme Court reviews her case.
DeSantis’s response to the original Levesque argument states that one of the factual bases for suspending Jackson stemmed from allegations that developmentally challenged pre-kindergarten students at Kenwood Elementary had been abused during the 2015-16 school year.
It states “at a bare minimum” Stacie Smith, Jackson’s assistant superintendent of human resources, knew about the allegations of abuse “as late as June 2016,” prior to Jackson’s re-election.
“Evidence suggests that (Jackson) knew about the allegations of suspected child abuse and eventual findings from an internal investigation of child abuse in the months leading up to her re-election in … 2016,” it says. “Evidence also suggests (Jackson) took certain steps in the months leading up to her re-election to minimize public discussion of the internal investigation findings.
“To be sure, the DeSantis response said, “the voters of Okaloosa County did not become aware of the child abuse investigation until after the election.”
The most recent response from Jackson’s attorney states that the order suspending her relies on facts detailed in a 2018 grand jury report “and the grand jury report exclusively addresses alleged failures which pre-date (Jackson’s) current term of office.”