Sally Hunt emailed law firm a ‘just cause’ list to fire Flagler County School Board attorney

The board member cited favoritism and a lack of trust in former Board Attorney Kristy Gavin.

School Board member Sally Hunt. File photo by Brent Woronoff
School Board member Sally Hunt. File photo by Brent Woronoff
Photo by Brent Woronoff
  • Palm Coast Observer
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Flagler County School Board member Sally Hunt said she rapidly lost faith in Board Attorney Kristy Gavin’s ability to represent the entire board. Throughout her itemized list specifying “just cause” to terminate Gavin’s contract, Hunt cited favoritism and a lack of trust.

Hunt emailed her list of 10 items to Daniel Nordby, attorney for Shutts & Bowen LLP, on Jan. 2. Shutts and Bowen prepared a letter of termination with Board Chair Will Furry. The termination letter was delivered to Gavin on Jan. 22. The letter did not specify cause. 

Hunt said her email to attorney Daniel Nordby was not a formal list but notes that she expected the firm to use in establishing cause. She said when she compiled the list she did not know it would be subject to public record requests.

In a phone interview with the Observer, Hunt said her email to Nordby was not a formal list but notes that she expected the firm to use in establishing cause. She said when she compiled the list she did not know it would be subject to public record requests.

Hunt said she was informed by interim board attorney David Delaney that her emails to Shutts & Bowen were requested and would be released.

“I was coming from a standpoint of trying to protect the district because we're being told lawsuit, lawsuit,” Hunt said referring to board member Cheryl Massaro warning the board that Gavin might sue the district if the board terminated her contract without just cause.

Gavin, in a Feb. 11 phone interview with the Observer, responded to many of the items on Hunt’s list as they were read to her.

Gavin had been the board’s attorney since 2006. The term of her latest contract began on July 1, 2022, and was scheduled to end on June 30, 2025.The contract states that the attorney “shall be subject to discharge only for just cause.” The contract defines just cause “as dereliction of duty, failure to report to work, misconduct in office or violation of criminal law.”

The contract goes on to say that Gavin may challenge just cause by filing a timely petition with the board. “The petition shall be referred to the Division of Administrative Hearings for the appointment of an Administrative Law Judge,” the contract states.

The contract goes on to say: “Should the ALJ determine that just cause did not exist … (the) attorney shall be paid 12 weeks of base salary without benefits … as well as accrued sick and annual leave.”

Massaro has said in board meetings and in an interview with the Observer that she is concerned that Gavin could also sue the district.

“This is my personal opinion, but she's just sitting really pretty to come down financially on our district,” Massaro said.


Hunt’s list included five items she labeled misconduct, three she listed as dereliction of duty and one as misconduct and dereliction of duty. Hunt emailed the list to the Observer.

Here’s a brief explanation of each item with responses from Gavin.

1. Misconduct: Mishandling of public records requests. This had to do with Hunt’s texts with former Wadsworth Elementary School Principal Paul Peacock in February, 2023 relating to Hunt and Peacock trying to expedite a vote on former Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt’s contract. The board voted 3-2 on April 4 not to renew Mittelstadt’s contract.

“Attorney Gavin shared more of my text messages than needed – all except those containing student names – and at no point worked to protect my rights as a board member,” Hunt wrote.

One example, Hunt wrote, was a dialogue over whether Peacock had “butt-dialed” her.

Gavin said the texts were released “to maintain everything in context.”

“She stated that they had a business relationship. And so she utilized her phone, and to maintain everything in context. She provided me the records,” Gavin said. “For her text messages that she provided to me, she indicated that they only had a business relationship and to keep everything in context.”

2. Dereliction of duty: Hunt wrote that Gavin “did not provide appropriate counsel regarding her conflict of interest in supporting the school board through discussions related to her behavior and contract.”

Hunt told the Observer that Gavin had a clear conflict of interest and should have recused herself, but it was her job to guide the board.

“Kristy Gavin was the best person in the room to give the board direction of what we need to do, give direction to the board as a collective to protect the board and guide the board,” Hunt said.  

Gavin said she did recommend the board seek outside counsel when discussing her contract.

“What I can tell you,” Gavin said, “is specifically the very first time that they said they wanted to review my contract and they said they wanted to get outside counsel, I actually told them, if you go and listen to the video (of the workshop meeting), you'll hear me say I think that that would be highly recommended, and I recommend they seek outside counsel.”

3. Misconduct: Hunt said she was concerned that Massaro, who was then the board chair, went off-script on Gavin’s prepared statement at an Aug. 24 press conference regarding the district’s investigation of Bunnell Elementary School’s assemblies with African American students that discussed underperforming test scores and announced a bracketed competition among those students. Hunt discussed her concerns with Gavin. Gavin reported those concerns to Massaro, telling her that Hunt was considering making a motion at a board meeting to censure Massaro.

Hunt said that when she asked Gavin if she told Massaro to stay on script, Gavin responded that she didn’t think she had to.

Massaro told the Observer that she was the last board member to arrive before the press conference.

“I have no idea what the conversation was to the group prior to my arrival,” Massaro said. “Apparently, Ms. Hunt was annoyed that I didn't follow the script. And I did not know I was supposed to follow or had to follow the script. And I'm not even sure I would, because there's a point where you have to be real to people, to express our heartfelt sympathies that this event took place, that this happened, and that's where my head was.”

Gavin said Hunt was aware that she was reporting back to Massaro. Massaro said she was not happy when she heard that Hunt considered a motion of censure.

“I had no idea we were supposed to stick to the script,” she said. “I was angry.”

Hunt never made a motion to censure Massaro.

4. Misconduct: Hunt wrote that Gavin discussed with FlaglerLive Editor Pierre Tristam that she and her family were moving and she was resigning her board seat. “By making comment, she is confirming the information. I would expect the board attorney to provide no comment,” she wrote.

Without providing a timeline, Hunt told the Observer that she will be moving out of district and will not be finishing her term on the board which ends in 2026.

Hunt said her School Board mentor, who is from the Tampa area, shared with her that any time there are new journalists in town, he introduces them to the superintendent and other district officials and says this is probably the last time you’ll speak to the board attorney because he does not comment to the press unless the board instructs him to.

Gavin said, “I can’t comment on what another board has set up with their board counsel. If something has a legal ramifciation, I think it would be appropropriate for the attorney to speak about it. I believe Mr. (Al) Hadeed (Flagler County attorney) speaks to (the press).”

5. Misconduct: Hunt wrote that Gavin made two “ageist comments,” one in a private meeting, one at a workshop responding to Hunt asking about the possibility of removing a master’s degree requirement in an advertisement for a new superintendent. She wrote that Gavin said “30-somethings” might apply in that situation.

Gavin told the Observer that what she suggested was to lengthen the number of years of experience if a master's requirement is eliminated. 

6. Dereliction of duty: “On more than one occasion, Attorney Gavin has cited outdated information which leads to an appearance of “winging it,” Hunt wrote. Hunt did not provide any examples.

7. Misconduct: Hunt wrote that a community member reported to her that Gavin shouted at him and his partners during a discussion about donating a parcel of land to the district. Gavin responded that she doesn’t know what meeting or discussion Hunt was referring to.

“We have had developers who have had to provide us property,” Gavin said. “But that wouldn’t be me making that request. That would have been our planner having those conversations.”

Hunt did elaborate on the meeting, saying it was before her time on the board.

8. Misconduct. Hunt said Gavin led Tristam into the superintendent’s suite after the press conference on the Bunnell assemblies. Board members were gathered behind a closed door in the superintendent’s office. 

Gavin said Tristam had walked into the suite, which is always open, and saw the door to the superintendent’s office was closed and went back to the press conference room and informed Gavin about a possible Sunshine Law violation. 

“Pierre told me (the board members) were having a meeting,” Gavin said. “I said, I will go and check. I walked out by myself. I walked into the superintendent suite. Anyone can walk in there at any time. I was not aware (Tristam) was behind me. I knocked on the door. When the door opened, I asked what's going on. And that's when I heard Pierre’s voice, and I looked back, then I realized he was there. So, I didn’t lead him back there.”

9. Misconduct, dereliction of duty, and breach of fiduciary duty: Hunt wrote that during discussions about the renewal (or non-renewal) of Mittelstadt’s contract, Gavin did not provide “unbiased, independent counsel.”

“(Gavin) and (board member) Colleen Conklin have a 17+ year relationship working together and there are many appearances of Attorney Gavin’s loyalty to her,” Hunt wrote.

Gavin said she has worked with Conklin for 17 years but denied favoritism.

10. Misconduct: Hunt wrote: “Attorney Gavin oversteps either communicating in meetings like a sixth board member or as district administration. She is almost never open to feedback related to her job.” She did not list any examples.

Gavin said she and Hunt met individually probably six times including phone calls. She noted that the board members did not provide Gavin’s annual performance evaluations when they were due in July. By the time they filed their evaluations they had already begun discussing terminating her contract, Gavin said.

The board hired Shutts & Bowen in early October to look into options in terminating Gavin’s contract. A majority of the board — Hunt, Furry and Christy Chong — had indicated by then that they wanted to terminate her contract.

Hunt said she did a video call with the firm at the time, and they confirmed that she had cause.

“People can believe me or not, because I have been vilified,” Hunt said. “But at the end of the day I have the best interests of the school district.”


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