Kelley flaunted her access to these military VIPs but also developed what family members called genuine friendships with some. Now her close connections to retired Gen. David H. Petraeus and Gen. John R. Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, have brought them all under intense scrutiny in an unfolding scandal.
Federal investigators have said that Kelley’s complaint about harassing e-mails — which were eventually traced to Petraeus’s biographer — triggered the FBI’s discovery of the general’s extramarital affair and his eventual resignation from his post as head of the CIA. According to a senior defense official, Kelley, 37, also exchanged hundreds of e-mails with Allen, who has been ensnared in the case amid questions about whether he had “inappropriate communications” with her.
Kelley has not responded to requests for comment since her name surfaced as part of the controversy. Officials close to Allen strongly denied suggestions that the general acted inappropriately with her.
In an interview, Kelley’s brother said the relationship between his sister and Petraeus was social and entirely platonic. “They were truly good friends for years,” said David Khawam, a lawyer in New Jersey.
The investigations of Petraeus’s and Allen’s actions, nonetheless, have raised questions about how Kelley, a woman with no formal military role, cultivated such close ties to two of the nation’s most revered generals.
One former aide to Allen, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the case, suggested that Kelley had become a de facto social ambassador among high-ranking personnel at MacDill, home to the U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command.
“Part of the job is social in nature,” including accepting and extending invitations, the aide said. “She was someone who was connective tissue to that world.”
Friends said that Kelley has been a fixture at social and charity events involving Central Command officials in Tampa and that her life has often focused on the lavish galas she throws with her husband, Scott, a prominent surgeon in nearby Lakeland. Scott Kelley told grateful guests at various parties that he and his wife felt an obligation to share their good fortune by showing support for the military.
Behind the glamour, though, the couple were racking up substantial debt. Banks have initiated foreclosure proceedings on two of their properties — not including their six-bedroom home — and other creditors have sued them for tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt, according to filings in Hillsborough County District Court. A lawyer who represented the Kelleys in the civil suits said he had not been authorized by his clients to discuss the cases.