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Jill Kelley is an unlikely figure to be involved in a major government scandal, but was instrumental in exposing the Paula Broadwell-David Petraeus affair.

How did the 37-year-old mother of three end up in that position?

Kelley, an event planner, had e-mailed the mayor of Tampa, Fla., mayor before, according to People‘s new cover story, but never under these circumstances.

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On November 14, she e-mailed Mayor Bob Buckhorn about news crews camped outside her home.


“To put insult to injury, your police department gave the local 911 tapes to the press!” she wrote.

“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.”

Buckhorn did nothing about Kelley’s complaint and attributed the release of her phone calls to police invoking “diplomatic protection” she’s not entitled to, to “public record.”

For Jill Kelley, an unpaid community liaison at MacDill Air Force Base, who placed herself at the nexus of Tampa’s military-civilian circles, his response was telling.

Her fall was now going to be as spectacular as her rise.

Not that she didn’t have company on the way down. By cozying up to two four-star generals, Kelley inadvertently exposed the scandal that brought down Petraeus.

After admitting an affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell, the CIA Director and former chief of U.S. Central Command was forced to resign.

John Allen’s promotion to head NATO forces in Europe is also in limbo while what government officials describe as suggestive e-mails he wrote to Kelley.

How did every thread in this tangled web link back to the chatty, flirty Kelley?

Her connection to FBI agent Frederick Humphries – who she notified after receiving threatening, anonymous emails – was the missing link, leading the bureau to Broadwell.

Apparently jealous and threatened by the raven-haired Kelley, Broadwell told her to quit flirting with Petraeus in emails that Humphries used to uncover the affair.

But Kelley’s entry into their world ran deeper than that.

For military lifers like Petraeus and Allen stationed at Central Command in Tampa, the relative glitz Kelley and her twin sister brought proved enchanting.

“Here’s the thing about commanders: They can get isolated. It’s nice to have civilian friends who support you,” says an active duty Army community-outreach official.

“Mostly it’s a nice thing. This one backfired.”