The agreement gives Kelley, former director of community affairs, nearly $60,000 and benefits stretching into early 2020. It also bans Kelley and the district from making disparaging remarks about each other.
NICEVILLE — Henry Kelley will receive a payment of $58,982.27 from the Okaloosa County School Board in exchange for agreeing to release the School District from any future lawsuits.
Additionally, the five-page mutual agreement prevents the former spokesman and School District officials from making disparaging remarks about one another. Infractions would cost $10,000 per communication and recovery of possible legal fees.
The School Board voted 5-0 Monday to pay Kelley — a former director of community affairs and executive director of the Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation, his full salary, accrued sick leave and six months of health insurance from July 1 to Jan. 1, 2020.
Kelley was a one-time lieutenant of former Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson, who resigned after serving a seven-month suspension from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for allegedly covering up child abuse to a special education student. The School Board on Monday also agreed to settle with her for nearly $71,000.
Superintendent Marcus Chambers, who was appointed to replace Jackson Jan. 11 following her suspension and again after she was reinstated and allowed to resign, originally fired Kelley on Jan. 28. However, Chambers rescinded the termination Aug.1 and extended Kelley’s employment to June 30, 2019.
Chambers’ lawyer, Robert E. Larkin of Tallahassee, and School Board Attorney Jeff McInnis agreed that state law gave Chambers legal authority to act in the Kelley case.
“I am assured by my lawyer that I have handled this according to procedures, correctly and legally,” Chambers told the School Board. “A lot of time and energy was given to it.”
Larkin called the settlement with Kelley “financially prudent.”
“I believe this is a great outcome for the district,” Larkin said. “It ends any future potential litigation.”
Nathan Clark, Kelley's attorney, had claimed in a 21-page appeal of Kelley's termination that Chambers “exceeded his delegated and statutory authority.”
Chambers had decided to fire Kelley for “repeated and documented policy violations” as well as the findings of a grand jury investigation.
Those policy violations included Kelley’s pleading guilty to violating the Florida Sunshine Law, failing to follow the proper hiring procedures for a community affairs secretary and for texting unprofessional messages to Destin resident Steve Menchel, who filed a complaint.
“Mr. Kelley wants to move on with his life and pursue his career goals,” Larkin said. “There’s no more negative banter. We acknowledge everything that happened. We are moving forward in a positive way.”
School Board member Tim Bryant said it was important to move on from the controversy swirling around Jackson and other black-eye issues plaguing the school system.
“I would support this just because it is a fair deal and it also moves us forward,” Bryant said.
School Board member Diane Kelley, who is no relation to Henry Kelley, praised the settlement because it avoids more costly litigation and time.
“This saves us ... years of haggling and litigation and extending the time we’re caught up in this one issue,” Kelley said. “This is a prudent way for us to go forward.”