“There are just some times I need to talk to somebody about what I want to do and how I want to move forward. There are times when this position needs some outside counsel.”
NICEVILLE — Okaloosa County School District Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson reiterated at Thursday's School Board workshop a desire for her own attorney to help handle district-related matters.
The request came at the end of a discussion initiated by School Board member Dewey Destin about the possibility of the district hiring an outside investigator to assist in its various investigations.
At the School Board workshop, Jackson clarified her intention to seek outside legal representation, arguing the lawyer wouldn’t be her own “personal” attorney, but rather an attorney to advise her as a superintendent. Jackson is currently represented by School Board attorney Jeff McInnis.
“It is this position that needs legal assistance,” Jackson said. “In this position, there are many times I’m not sure how to go on something, and I feel like as wonderful as Jeff McInnis has been to us … it really is a conflict of interest for him because we (the school board and the superintendent) are two separate bodies.
“There are just some times I need to talk to somebody about what I want to do and how I want to move forward,” she continued. “There are times when this position needs some outside counsel.”
School board policy currently dictates McInnis is available to advise both the school board and the superintendent, a policy Jackson said needs to be “questioned.”
Jackson’s request came after Destin, who does not support the superintendent being represented by separate counsel, said he wanted to see more “checks and balances” in the investigation process and in the decisions that follow as a result of those investigations.
“I am not in favor of an outside attorney,” Destin told the Daily News after the meeting. “I am in favor of perhaps on a need-to-need basis getting an outside investigator. But our real problem is not the investigation. Our problem is that after the investigation is done we need to make some better decisions.”
School board member Melissa Thrush said Florida statute could allow for Jackson to retain her own representation if she sees fit, so long as the School Board amends its policy.
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.