Escambia Co. school board member accuses others of violating Sunshine Law after firing superintendent

News 5 WKRG | By Cody Long | May 18, 2023

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — An Escambia County school board member is accusing some of his fellow board members of violating the Florida Sunshine Law.

The accusation came from Board Member Bill Slayton Tuesday night during a surprise vote to terminate the contract of Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith. The item was not on the agenda. Dr. Smith and others were surprised as the board voted 3-2 to fire him.

Patty Hightower and Slayton voted no on the termination. Slayton said he believed there must have been private discussion among Paul Fetsko, Kevin Adams and David Williams who all voted to fire Smith. Fetsko and Williams spoke out denying any discussion outside the meeting.

“This is wrong,” Slayton said. “It’s a surprise at the last minute. I’m very disappointed. I almost want to say there’s been a Sunshine Law violation. There’s got to have been a discussion on this.”

Fetsko and Adams tried to remove Smith in Fall 2022 but they didn’t have the votes. New board member David Williams jumped on board with them this time.

“Teachers are hurting,” Williams said. “Nothing personal against Dr. Smith. I think he’s a great educator but we’re losing administrators, we’re losing teachers, we’re losing students.”

Smith didn’t hold back letting Fetsko and Adams know what he thinks.

“Some people are just dividers,” Smith said. “You have been divisive…It started in the fall. It continued in February. You’ve been plotting evidentally behind the scenes.”

Fetsko and Adams said they didn’t like how Smith handled Warrington Middle as it transitions to a charter school. When it comes to book bans, Smith said Adams wanted him to violate board policy and unilaterally remove contested books from school libraries.

“It’s easy to throw the superintendent under the bus,” Smith said. “It’s your policy that you led and you’re asking me to violate your policy.”

Smith claimed Fetsko told him some rules are meant to be violated.

“You said the same wanted me to pull the books,” Smith said as Fetsko tried to interrupt. “I don’t want to hear it. Don’t slippery out of this. I don’t need the spin.”

Smith walked out before the meeting ended. His last day is May 31.

“I wish you the very best,” he said.

Human Resources Director Keith Leonard is expected to serve in the interim until a new superintendent is appointed.

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