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Tampa Bay area teacher nearly loses driver’s license after school makes mistake with child support garnishments

HIGHLANDS COUNTY, Fla. — A Tampa Bay area teacher says he nearly lost his driver’s license after the school he worked for made a mistake with his child support garnishments.

Court records show Otis Kelly made hundreds of child support payments dating back a decade for his 12-year-old son, who has Downs Syndrome.

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“I’m his father, so I am supposed to provide for him and take care of him,” said Kelly.

Then in 2017, Otis says he started teaching at the Lake Placid Montessori School. ABC Action News reviewed dozens of pay stubs between 2018 and 2019, and they showed the school pulled $113 a week out of Kelly’s check for child support.

But in 2018, Kelly says the state began sending notices threatening to suspend his license over non-payment of support. He went to Child Support Enforcement for answers.

“I said ‘why am I getting all these notices about my support not being paid’ and they said ‘Sir, your employer is not sending it on a weekly basis.'”

Highlands County court records show the $113 taken out of this teacher’s weekly pay wasn’t always sent to the state. By 2020, Kelly had fallen $1,800 in arrears. He contacted ABC Action News and Jackie Callaway for help.

Jackie emailed the school’s owner and asked about the money taken out of Kelly’s check for child support. The owner responded in an email.

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“Due to a clerical error, the amounts were left outstanding, but it has been corrected, and steps were taken to ensure it didn’t happen again.”

A few days later, the school sent Kelly a check for the missing money. We verified, and he quickly paid the past due amount in child support for his son Otis Kelly III. Kelly says it feels like a weight has been lifted off of him and his family.

“It feels great; it feels like a relief.”

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