School Board Attorney Kristy Gavin was still on the job this morning–as a School Board attorney. But uncertainty remains, even though the board has approved a new job description that would theoretically allow Gavin to step into a new role as staff attorney, or general counsel, answering to the superintendent.
When the Flagler County School Board last discussed Gavin’s future at a workshop just before Christmas, there was vague understanding among board members that either Gavin would continue as a staff attorney, or her contract would be terminated by Dec. 31–with a letter from board members spelling out the cause of her firing. That letter is required by contract. Gavin may not be fired without cause.
Board Chair Will Furry put it this way: “If an agreement is made by the end of the month, then this will come back to us in our business meeting in January under personnel for an approval.” That would have meant that Superintendent LaShakia Moore and Gavin will have agreed to a new arrangement, with Gavin as the district’s general counsel. She would no longer be representing the board. That meeting is on Jan. 23. “If there is no agreement, that contracts is terminated. And you’ll need to deliver your cause immediately so that it can be included in the letter.”
As of today, no such letter had been turned in, and Gavin said she was still with the district: “No changed capacity at this point.” Moore said “progress” had been made on agreeing to Gavin’s new role, but that the matter as a whole had yet to be resolved. Negotiations appeared to have broken down at the end of the year on the reported request by the district that Gavin sign away her right to sue, if she were to be hired as staff attorney. Gavin was not willing to do that, as it would be a requirement imposed only on her. No other employee has to sign such an indemnification. It’s not clear if that requirement is still on the table. But if it were, it would be a deal-breaker, yet the negotiations are continuing.
“The last that I heard was that a mutual agreement has been met. That’s it,” School Board member Cheryl Massaro said this morning. She had been involved in the negotiations in December. “After our last meeting, they had to have a meeting,” Massaro said, referring to the last School Board meeting on Dec. 19, and the subsequent meeting between Gavin and Moore. “And they did. And apparently mutual agreement was not met. That’s all that we all were notified of.”
Meanwhile, the board still has no legal representation other than Gavin. “We voted to end the contract December 31. But we don’t we still don’t have a path going forward. So it’s kind of like–where do we go from here,” Chong said. The question remains unanswered. The superintendent has a $50,000 emergency fund for legal representation, but that money isn’t without strings of its own. While the board has issued a request for letters of interest from law firms to secure permanent representation for itself in place of Gavin, that process is still in its early stages. So while an attorney is required to be at the dais when the board meets again later this month, it’s unclear who that would be if Gavin were fired in the interim, or if she were shifted to staff attorney.
The board on Dec. 19 unanimously approved the new job description for staff attorney, signaling support for going that route. The description red-lines the previous job description for Board Attorney, re-focusing duties “to provide effective legal services and legal advice to the
Board, Superintendent, and District staff within the Flagler County School District.” Gavin already fulfills most, if not all, of those responsibilities. (See the job description here.) The description doesn’t include a cost. Gavin is currently earning $135,000 a year, plus benefits.
The board may fire Gavin “for cause,” but Gavin has the right to contest those causes at an administrative hearing or through other litigation. If the causes hold up, the board’s payout to Gavin would be limited. If not, the payout could be very expensive, especially if Gavin opts to sue over wrongful termination.
Hunt for months has said that she has causes to fire Gavin, but has insistently resisted providing them. She resisted again in late December. “I am hesitant to even say this but a lot has been said that that there has been nothing said about cause,” Hunt said. “I will tell you, there there has been. But right now because there’s so many threats of lawsuits, I would not be comfortable putting together a legal draft of my cause without any legal counsel.”
Furry said Hunt would need to articulate her cause, as would anyone else with cause. Furry wanted the “cause” letter “to be in by January 2, in writing.” School Board member Colleen Conklin pressed for a resolution by the end of December, but that deadline has now come and gone.
For Moore, resolving Gavin’s status is only one of several major staffing goals as 2024 opens. Moore resolved another with the appointment of Don Foley as a replacement for Jason Wheeler, who had been the district’s “Community Information Specialist” for te past eight years. Wheeler is taking a similar job in the Panhandle. Foley is not entirely unknown in Flagler County: he led the Flagler County Sheriff’s public affairs division for five months in 2022, until the pace there proved too taxing. Like Wheeler, Foley is dexterous with video and broadcasting. He starts on Jan. 8, Moore confirmed today. (See: “Sheriff Hires Don Foley, Ex-TV Producer and Mayoral PR, to Lead Public Affairs Office.”)
That leaves one major position for Moore to fill, or announce: that of deputy superintendent.