News Item

Judge Dismisses CoastKeepers Lawsuit Against OWC


Judge Robert Barron has dismissed a lawsuit suit brought by the Pensacola Gulf Coastkeepers against the Okaloosa-Walton College Foundation and OWC college president Dr. Bob Richburg.

In his dismissal, Barron ruled that the organization lacked the legal standing to continue its suit because it could not show any direct injury in connection with the case and because there was no basis to allow the group to continue to pursue its allegations of RICO violations. The dismissal, with prejudice, means the group is not entitled to amend its complaint or use the same arguments again.

"Personally and on behalf of the college, I am so pleased with the judge's ruling today, "said Dr. Bob Richburg, OWC President. "It shows that the irresponsible allegations made by this group have no basis to move forward and that the group has no validity to bring such an action."

The suit sought to prohibit the Okaloosa-Walton College Foundation from selling bayfront property bequeathed to the college by Mrs. Mattie Kelly of Destin. Proceeds from the sale will be placed in a permanent endowment fund through the OWC Foundation to support the college's Mattie Kelly Cultural and Environmental Institute.

"Mattie Kelly's bequest called for OWC to establish a cultural and environmental institute in her name to promote the arts and study of the bay," said Richburg. "The college established the Mattie Kelly Cultural and Environmental Institute in 1997 and through the sale of a portion of the property she bequeathed to the college - we can carry on her vision. It is the Institute in her name and its work for the cultural life and environmental health of this region that was Mrs. Kelly's dream." Under the terms of the proposed sale, the OWC Foundation will continue to own and maintain the grounds surrounding Mattie Kelly's mausoleum which is located on the property.

Interest earnings from the Mattie Kelly Cultural and Environmental Institute Endowment will underwrite the cultural and environmental work highlighted in Mrs. Kelly's gift to the college including:

  • Naming the entire Arts Center complex in honor of Mrs. Kelly as the "Mattie Kelly Fine and Performing Arts Center". The naming will memorialize Mrs. Kelly's love of the arts and make her dream of a fine arts center for the community a reality. The Mattie Kelly Fine and Performing Arts Center will provide a place for literary societies, fine arts groups and small performing groups as well as conferences and seminars offered through OWC;
  • Support for biological and marine science studies associated with the Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, including support for the OWC Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance's environmental work to monitor and improve the quality of the bay,
  • Support for an annual Mattie Kelly Environmental Symposium on the Choctaw Bay, and a Mattie Kelly Endowed Faculty Chair in the Environmental Sciences to focus research on the Choctaw Bay;
  • A Mattie Kelly Sculpture and Art Acquisition Collection to bring more art work and exhibitions to the public through the OWC galleries with an emphasis on works that express the coastal heritage of Northwest Florida;
  • Support of 40 full-tuition Mattie Kelly Scholarships in the fine and performing arts each year and an annual Show Choir regional competition for high school show choirs; and
  • The establishment of a Mattie Kelly Endowed Teaching Chair in Orchestral Music.

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