CLAY COUNTY, Fla. — When Jeff Hendricks was getting kicked out of a news conference at the Clay County Education Association on Friday, he wouldn’t answer Action News Jax’s questions about who he was.
Now Hendricks is telling Action News Jax he wasn’t there to cause trouble.
Hendricks has connections to both Clay County Schools Superintendent Charlie Van Zant and the teachers union he was kicked out of.
On Monday, Hendricks said he just wanted to hear what Dr. Susan Sailor had to say at the news conference about her accusations of fraud and plagiarism against her boss, Clay County Schools Superintendent Charlie Van Zant.
“Why can’t I be here?” Hendricks asked teachers' union service unit Director Tracy Butler, who was asking him to leave on Friday.
On Friday, Action News Jax showed Van Zant the video of Hendricks getting kicked out.
“He looks kind of familiar. I can’t tell you who that is,” said Van Zant.
Van Zant called back on Saturday to say he wasn’t wearing his bifocals when he saw the video, but he now recognizes Hendricks, admitting he knows him “very well.”
Hendricks called Van Zant a “true friend” and has volunteered for his campaign in the past.
Hendricks said his wife is a member of the teachers' union he was kicked out of.
Hendricks works at W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractors, which does HVAC work for the Clay County School District.
He is also the president of the local Plumbers, Pipefitters and HVAC Technicians Union.
According to the Florida Sunshine Law, any time two elected board members talk about something the board may act on in the future, it’s considered a public meeting.
Two school board members attended Sailor's news conference on Friday, but Action News Jax Law and Safety expert Dale Carson said it's not considered a public meeting.
“If it’s not a called meeting, and two board members simply show up to a common function, and they are not there talking about things that they might later vote on, then there’s no violation,” said Carson.
At Friday’s news conference, Sailor said Van Zant plagiarized her work for his superintendent’s certification requirements, not for his master’s degree, as she had previously alleged.
But she stuck to her guns that he ripped off her work.
“Well, at this point, the Department of Education IG has put this under investigation. I asked for that. And I’m confident that my name will be cleared of any wrongdoing,” said Van Zant.
Sailor also stood by her accusation that Van Zant knows principals in his district were falsely labeling struggling students as having learning disabilities to inflate graduation rates.
The Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General is investigating the accusations against Van Zant.
The investigation is not likely to wrap up until after next week’s primary election.
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