Sunday, December 17, 2017
Military News

Jill Kelley tried to broker deals for USF Health

TAMPA — Soon after she was appointed an honorary consul to South Korea, Jill Kelley of Tampa went to work trying to establish a relationship between that country and the University of South Florida's medical school.

"I was nominated for this diplomatic appointment, for the purpose to facilitate new agreements in the USA with my contacts," Kelley wrote in a Sept. 7 email to USF medical school dean Stephen Klasko. "I have a unique opportunity to propose bids because of my relationship with the top executive branch of Korea, and in addition, the President of the Free Trade Act is my direct contact.

"With that said, I wanted to ask you, first, if you had any interest in a medical, pharmaceutical or research exchange between USF and Korea?"

Kelley is one of the two women at the center of a national scandal that led to the resignation of CIA director David Petraeus.

An unpaid MacDill Air Force Base social liaison, Kelley had told an FBI agent that she had received anonymous, threatening emails. That led to an investigation uncovering an extramarital affair between Petraeus and biographer Paula Broadwell. Gen. John R. Allen, the top-ranking U.S. general serving in Afghanistan, was drawn in when it was discovered that he and Kelley had emailed each other extensively. Allen has said he did not act inappropriately.

In the scandal's fallout, a portrait has emerged showing Kelley as the consummate networker, touting her connections and moving easily in military circles.

Kelley, for example, received the Joint Chiefs of Staff's second-highest civilian honor in March 2011 for outstanding public service to U.S. Central Command at MacDill. Petraeus, who recommended her for the award, presented it to her in a ceremony in Washington.

But the award was delayed until after Petraeus departed CentCom, so Gen. James Mattis, CentCom's current commander, had to resubmit it, according to the Joint Chiefs' office.

Kelley counted USF medical officials as another potential audience.

Two days after she sent her email to Klasko, he sent her a note of congratulations on her appointment. He told her the university has "significant relationships" with South Korea and suggested she visit USF's training and simulation center, called CAMLS, in downtown Tampa.

He also suggested she get in touch with John Sinnott, an associate dean who is in charge of USF's international efforts.

Kelley said in a return email that she'd do just that once she returned from a trip to Hawaii, where she was with the Korean delegation for her ceremonial appointment.

Sinnott wrote Kelley on Sept. 11 saying the school was interested in pursuing a South Korean partner for the CAMLS program.

He asked her to let him know her schedule when she returned and said they'd set up a time to tour the facility. Kelley suggested a few dates in a followup email. But then the chain of correspondence ends.

USF Health officials say that nothing came of Kelley's initial offer: There were no additional meetings. Kelley, they said, never went on the CAMLS tour.

It isn't unheard of for honorary consuls to mix business with their special consular status.

A 1988 Miami Herald story noted that a Miami lawyer, Burt Landy, had "reaped sizable fees by representing Korean trading companies and textile manufacturers doing business in South Florida and the Caribbean."

"I don't know if it adds business that wouldn't be there anyway," Landy told the Herald. "But it doesn't hurt."

Landy, who is still a South Korean honorary consul, is one of two in Florida, the other being Kelley. Landy has declined to comment to the Tampa Bay Times.

The South Korean Embassy in Washington is reviewing Kelley's status as an honorary consul in light of the scandal. A spokesman for the embassy could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

In other developments Wednesday, a spokesman for the Air Force's Air Mobility Command confirmed that Kelley traveled on a flight of a KC-135 aerial refueling tanker during a mission in the summer of 2011. The flight was organized by base public affairs staffers and included, besides Kelley, military spouses and members of Friends of MacDill.

Friends of MacDill allowed prominent civilians in the Tampa Bay area to get IDs allowing them onto the base without an escort. The program is being reviewed by the base's commander.

Is the scandal also the Grinch that stole Christmas?

After an upcoming CentCom holiday party was canceled, rumors began circulating that it was the latest victim of the scandal. But a CentCom spokesman said Mattis had canceled his Dec. 2 reception because of "recent activity" in the Middle East that will take him out of town.

He's got a battle between Hamas and Israel to worry about.

Times staff writer William R. Levesque contributed to this report.

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