Two high ranking Okaloosa County School District officials fired by Superintendent Marcus Chambers after the suspension of his predecessor have appealed their termination and are trying to get their jobs back.

Henry Kelley, who headed the School District Foundation, claims in his appeal that Chambers “exceeded his delegated and statutory authority” when he fired him because Gov. Ron DeSantis never should have suspended Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson.

“Marcus Chambers lacks constitutional authority to remove Henry Kelley at all because Mary Beth Jackson was wrongfully suspended by the Governor of Florida and the appeal of her own suspension is not yet settled law,” Kelley’s appeal states.

Jackson was suspended just three days after DeSantis was sworn in as governor. He acted after receiving a letter from Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran, who asked the governor to carefully consider the findings of a grand jury, which in 2018 found Jackson had failed in her duties as superintendent.

“Students should feel safe in school, and this administration will not tolerate negligence or incompetence from any government officials, especially those charged with the sacred duty of protecting our children.”

Jackson has appealed her suspension. The Florida Senate is scheduled to hear her appeal and decide whether to reinstate her as superintendent of permanently remove her from office.

Andy Johnson was the program director of Student Services, Discipline and Athletics. His two-page appeal is dwarfed by the 21-page, attorney-written Kelley appeal, states he has suffered a substantial reduction in income and a blow to his character as a result of Chambers’s action.

Kelley and Johnson were told they would be fired Jan. 28. The Okaloosa County School Board voted unanimously the same evening to terminate their 2018-19 School District contracts.

 The School Board will also hear both appeals.

In a letter informing Kelley of the decision to fire him, Chambers cited “repeated and documented policy violations,” as well as the findings of a grand jury investigation as his reasons for doing so. The grand jury found Kelley had violated the Florida Sunshine Law.

Johnson’s “evasive and contradictory sworn testimony” before the same grand jury was what led Chambers to fire him, according to the letter Johnson received.

The school district had no comment on the appeals, according to Assistant Superintendent Steve Horton.

Kelley’s appeal was signed by Nathan D. Clark with the Coral Reef Law Offices, based in Miami. It states DeSantis violated the Separation of Powers Doctrine of the Florida Constitution by removing Jackson.

It states Chambers' reasons for firing Kelley “were on their face fraudulent and a ruse for exercise of a political vendetta against a perceived political enemy in anticipation of a 2020 re-election campaign of Mr. Chambers.

“Mr. Kelley’s termination was a wrongful breach of his contract, for which he seeks reinstatement with full compensation, plus attorney’s fees,” the appeal said.

Johnson and Kelley state in their appeals that they were not given sufficient notice of their firings. Kelley's appeal claims he was fired for issues, like the grand jury findings, that had arisen during the 2017-18 school contract year. It contends he received a contract renewal for 2018-19 without any of the items in question being brought up.

The appeal states “Mr. Kelley is a decorated combat Gulf War veteran” and requests that the School District arrange for “legal counsel familiar with post-war traumatic response counsel for him as he defends himself against this wrongful termination.”