The Lee County Board of Education voted on Tuesday night to launch an investigation into whether a photo of Democratic member Patrick Kelly engaged in sexual activity violated any of its ethics policies.
The motion, made by Republican Christine Hilliard and seconded by Kelly himself, passed unanimously.
The issue did not initially appear on the board’s published agenda, but was added at the meeting’s start. During the public comment portion of the meeting, Lee County GOP Chairman Jim Womack reiterated comments he made before the Lee County Board of Commissioners on Monday night in which he called for Kelly’s resignation over the photo, which depicts legal activity between consenting adults in a private setting.
Womack explicitly tied his call for an inquiry to a similar investigation conducted into his wife’s activities in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, claiming “inconsistency in how the board manages allegations of misconduct or board policy violations” and saying that Republican board member Sherry Lynn Womack had been “subjected to vicious public condemnation.”
“She received no apology or logical explanation for being subjected to this abuse,” he said.
For her part, Womack after the motion to investigate Kelly had been made and seconded said she saw “no value in discussing the matter any further” in public. Later, at the meeting’s end, she seemed to reference the situation, noting “when you come out and you say an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth, we will leave Lee County blind and toothless.”
Kelly made no comment on the issue during the meeting.
The other individuals who made public comments either supported Kelly or criticized the board for allowing many non county residents to speak in defense of Womack at its February meeting.
“I’m highly disgusted that this is what it’s come to. What a man wants to do with a consenting person behind closed doors is his business,” said Neil Rosser, noting that Kelly had been consistent in responding to emails and questions from the public while not all other board members had done the same. “I feel like what has happened on this board is you want to go after some of the people on this board who called for an investigation on you, and it’s becoming a clown show for the whole county.”
Cheri Vollbracht didn’t reference the call for an investigation into Kelly, but did say she was “very disturbed” by the February meeting’s public comment section, which she called “a pre-meditated, ad nauseum, self-serving Sherry Lynn Womack pep rally” and calling for changes to the board’s public comment policy.
“Student comments should always be heard, I was disturbed by comments suggesting students should not have a voice,” she said. “Comments need to be limited to those who are Lee County residents.”