Jackson wants her own lawyer; district would foot bill

0
13

Okaloosa County School District superintendent: “I know what my right is and what I’m entitled to. I will fight for that (representation).”

By Heather Osbourne | 315-4440 | @heatheronwfdn | hosbourne@nwfdailynews.com

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

NICEVILLE — Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson announced at Monday’s School Board meeting that she is prepared to fight for personal legal representation.

In a prepared speech she read to the School Board, Jackson requested her own lawyer for issues pertaining to board policy and her duties and responsibilities. Jackson is currently represented by School Board attorney Jeff McInnis.

“As we move forward with policy revisions, having an attorney guide the board on sound policy is important,” Jackson said. “Because the superintendent carries out those policies, having an attorney guide that duty is equally as important.”

The request sparked a heated debate among board members and Jackson, who disagreed over whether separate legal representation was necessary.

Board member Rodney Walker said he was not aware of any situation that has made it necessary to provide Jackson with her own lawyer. He said in the past the board would grant separate representation for isolated incidents if necessary.

“Why is it, all of a sudden, you’re making it sound like the way we’ve been doing this all this time is not adequate and we need now to do it a different way?” Walker asked.

Monday was not the first time Jackson submitted a request for separate representation. She made a similar case to the School Board in 2013 but was denied. She told the Daily News after the board’s decision in 2013 that she planned to pay for the attorney fees out of her own pocket.

On Monday, Jackson repeatedly clarified her request would not be for an attorney for day-to-day operations, but specifically for conflict situations between the board and the superintendent. She said McInnis would continue to handle all other district legal matters.

“Whenever I have questions about school board policy … I need someone that I can talk to,” Jackson said. “I may not agree with what you want me to carry out in that policy. I need to know legally what my stance is on that.”

If the School Board approved Jackson’s request, her new attorney would be paid from a nearly $1.5 million budget designated for unexpected legal expenses.

Board member Dewey Destin said he believes McInnis does a “good job” representing both the board and superintendent. He said when the board and superintendent were represented by different attorneys in the past, the advice was often conflicting.

“I don’t want to put us in a situation where we’ve got different opinions from two different attorneys,” Destin said. “I’ve been there; it’s not a good place to be.”

However, Destin said later that a separate attorney might be necessary for certain conflicts.

“It looks like we might be, or have the potential to be, in an adversarial relationship,” Destin told Jackson. “I’ve never felt that was the case and I hope that it’s not, but I can see this would be right for those kinds of problems.”

Jackson, who announced she had her private attorney present during the meeting, said in response to Destin’s remarks that conflicts between the board and superintendent arise “quite often.”

“I know what my right is and what I’m entitled to,” Jackson said. “I will fight for that (representation).”

“It looks like we’re at that adversarial position already,” Destin replied.

Jackson had not placed her request on Monday’s meeting agenda so no board action was taken.

LEAVE A REPLY