The lawyer for suspended Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson on Monday told a hearing officer he needs more information of “specific wrongdoing” she’s alleged to have committed.
“We’re struggling to identify what we’re defending against,” George Levesque told Dudley Goodlette, a former lawmaker serving as special master for the Florida Senate. That’s where Jackson is appealing her executive suspension by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Goodlette held a case-management conference with Levesque and Nicholas Primrose, a deputy general counsel for DeSantis. Primrose agreed to come up with a “statement of particulars,” a detailed document of charges or claims, by next Friday, Feb. 15.
The goal, after an exchange of information known as “discovery” and a final hearing, is for Goodlette to have his recommendation to Senate President Bill Galvano by the end of March. This year’s Legislative Session is March 5-May 3.
In an executive order last month, DeSantis said he was suspending Jackson on the recommendation of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. The Governor pointed, in part, to child-abuse allegations against an Okaloosa County teacher and grand jury findings that were critical of Jackson.
The executive order said Jackson failed to “provide adequate, necessary and frequent training, a lack of supervision of school district personnel and a failure to implement adequate safeguards, policies and reporting requirements to protect the safety and well-being of the students.”
Under state law, suspended officials can go to the Senate to seek to be reinstated under the chamber’s rules.
After the hearing, Levesque — a former general counsel for the Senate — reminded reporters Jackson hadn’t been indicted.
“The grand jury decided there was no criminal wrongdoing; they just didn’t like the job that she did and thought they might do it differently,” he said.
“I believe, personally, that is not sufficient grounds for a senator to vote to remove her,” he added. “It’s kind of hard to argue that one of the best performing school districts, by every measurement, … that it’s an incompetently run system is just not supported.”
Background provided by The News Service of Florida, republished with permission.