1. Military

Jill and Scott Kelley cultivated politicians as well as generals

Jill Kelley, left, and Jill’s twin sister, Natalie Khawam, pose with Sen. Marco Rubio at a private fundraiser.
Jill Kelley, left, and Jill’s twin sister, Natalie Khawam, pose with Sen. Marco Rubio at a private fundraiser.
Published Nov. 16, 2012

TAMPA — The emails were anguished, pleading and sent straight to the mayor.

"Bob, hope all is well," Jill Kelley wrote at 5:57 a.m. Tuesday to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, whom she knows socially.

What came next offers a glimpse into Kelley's state of mind as a national scandal blew up in her front yard.

"My kids are scared, and need their 'home' back," she wrote, asking for help with "paparazzi" at her Bayshore Boulevard mansion.

At 6:18 a.m. Wednesday, she emailed again.

"Dear Mayor Bob," she wrote, saying that her name, along with those of former CIA director David Petraeus and Gen. John R. Allen, "have been exploited by the media."

"I wouldn't care — if they got the facts right and the focus was on the criminal that stalked all of us," she added in an apparent reference to Petraeus biographer and mistress Paula Broadwell. "But the truth will one day prevail."

Then she complained, "to put insult to injury, your police dept gave the local 911 tapes to the press!"

The police dispatch recordings included her cell phone number, she said, so now "I have been receiving threats all night."

Kelley said she was not sending her daughters to school and her husband, Dr. Scott Kelley, was sleeping at the hospital, "because it's just gotten too difficult to even pull out of our own driveway."

"I'm scared and cannot believe what my city — in which I have contributed so much of my love, time, money and leadership, has now done to me and my innocent family," Kelley wrote.

Asked Thursday if he did anything in response to Kelley's complaint, Buckhorn said no. "Public record," he said of the police calls.

But the emails reveal a facet of the Kelleys' life in Tampa that has until now received little notice.

The couple not only lavished attention on top officers from MacDill Air Force Base, but cultivated friendships with Florida politicians — even if it meant being pushy.

Thursday, a photo of then-U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio, with Jill Kelley and her twin sister, Natalie Khawam, on each arm, made the rounds on Twitter.

Republican Angelette Aviles tweeted the photo. She said it was taken at a March 2010 fundraiser for Rubio at an office in Tampa. The cost was $1,000 a plate.

But the twins didn't pay anything, said Aviles.

"They weren't on the guest list," she said. "They came in, took a photo with him, and left. . . . I had no idea who they were" — until she saw the women's faces in the news this week.

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said the senator met the twins during his 2010 campaign.

"Mrs. Kelley has sent his Senate office invitations to social events, but he hasn't attended any," Conant said.

Kelley did not contribute to Rubio's campaign. Jill Kelley did give $500 to the Florida Republican Party in 2010, and Scott Kelley and Natalie Khawam each gave $250 in 2009 to Todd Marks, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for the state House.

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Subscribe to our free DayStarter newsletter

We’ll deliver the latest news and information you need to know every weekday morning.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Also this week, the Daily Telegraph of London, citing an unnamed Republican source, said Khawam once dated former Gov. Charlie Crist.

Reached by phone, Crist said: "Consider the source."

"Didn't happen," he said. "I may have met her."

Crist said he met the Kelleys, along with Petreaus and wife, Holly, for a dinner at Bern's Steak House in Tampa. Jill Kelley — "a delightful person," Crist said — arranged the dinner.

The Kelleys didn't support Buckhorn during his race for mayor, and he said he had never met them. But they reached out to him soon after he was elected in March 2011.

Three weeks after Buckhorn was sworn in, the couple hosted a cocktail reception for him on the front yard of their home.

Since then, Jill Kelley has kept in touch with the mayor, often extending social invitations, according to emails released by the city late Thursday.

Less than a month after the reception in the mayor's honor, Kelley emailed Buckhorn that she hoped to see him and his wife, Dr. Cathy Lynch Buckhorn, at a dinner party that evening for the King of Jordan.

"The King and his sister (the Princess) are awesome people!" she wrote a few days later. "Actually your name was brought up by the Generals when they were showing off the party I hosted you! (everyone loved that party)"

"Especially me," responded Buckhorn, who said he counts Kelley as an acquaintance.

He said he has not been able to accept any of Kelley's invitations since the reception in his honor, but he — along with his wife and police driver — did give her a ride home after a MacDill function when her husband was working late and was unable to meet her.

"Gen Mattis" — an apparent reference to Marine Gen. James Mattis, who succeeded Petraeus as commander of CentCom — "was so kind to offer, but I realized you two were passing my way," Jill Kelley wrote to Buckhorn the next day.

Kelley also messaged the mayor early this year after reports that American personnel in Afghanistan had burned Korans, enraging Muslims.

Soon after, Tampa Bay shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem said "we are going to deep fat fry" the Koran, according to a news report from WMNF-88.5 FM radio.

In response, top officers at MacDill reached out to the mayor to try to talk the DJ out of a publicity stunt that could have endangered troops.

Buckhorn also heard from Kelley, who said she had just gotten off a phone call with Gen. Allen and Vice Adm. Robert Harward, the deputy commander of CentCom, and needed the mayor's help "with the potential crises we'll be dealing with."

"If it involves the radio station, we are working on it," Buckhorn replied.

"They asked me to get involved, like I did when it happened with the Pastor last year," she emailed back.

"This Bubba the Love Sponge is a complete moron," Buckhorn told her in response.

The Koran-burning never took place.

One thing that comes through in many of Kelley's emails is how chummy she is with top generals.

A month after the threatened Koran burning, she invited Buckhorn to a noontime reception, hosted by Harward, being held in her honor at MacDill.

And in October 2011 she invited Buckhorn and his family to her daughter's sixth birthday party.

Buckhorn begged off, saying his daughters had swim meets that day, though he added: "would definitely rather be lounging on Bayshore with an adult beverage."

"I agree!" Kelley said, and then added a note referring to Petraeus. "I'll be sure to send the Director your regards — should be another fabulous weekend in DC."

Times researcher Caryn Baird and staff writers Alex Leary and Ben Montgomery contributed to this report.


This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge