Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Richland 2 Endurance Contests (meetings)

If you have been attending or watching (on YouTube) any of the Richland 2 School Board meetings recently, I hope you have had your NoDoz™ handy. Even School Board members mentioned the long meetings, by saying "It's past my bedtime."

Last night's meeting was much shorter. For your information, the recorded length of previous meetings (only the public sessions, which were preceded by one-hour executive sessions) was

2/26/19 3:30:32
2/12/19 3:36:00
1/22/19 2:23:44
1/8/19   1:12:50
12/11/18 3:08:38
11/13/18 2:04:27

Just today I came across last week's editorial on the length of school board meetings, published in The Independent Voice of Blythewood and Fairfield County. You can read it here.

The Voice has covered the Richland 2 School Board in depth recently, reporting on the ethics fiasco and other school district matters. I encourage you to read The Voice regularly (This is not a paid advertisement.) And be sure to comment there (and here, too).

Oh, say, can you hear?

At each Richland 2 school board meeting I wonder just how many people can really hear everything that is said. If you have attended in-person, have you heard everything?

I distinctly remember the first meeting at which I actually heard a speaker who was addressing the Board from the podium. A man from the South Carolina Education Association was there to present a proclamation to the Board. He spoke up. I mean, loudly and clearly, so that he could be heard throughout the room. I wanted to stand up and applaud him!

Are you hard of hearing? Do you know that hearing-assistance devices are available at meetings? No, I didn't know that, either. All you have to do is ask. Ask at the front right of the room (from the audience's view) before the meeting starts.

I'll admit to some degree of hearing loss. After all, these ears have been listening for 80 years. But they are not worn out. When people speak clearly in conversational tones, I don't have any trouble hearing.

If the Board members spoke up, firmly and clearly and actually into the microphones, they could be heard.

I know this is true, because at the March 12th meeting, Teresa Holmes spoke right into her microphone, as she defended herself against remarks I had made during the Public Participation segment of the meeting. You can hear her comments near the end of the March 12, 2019, video recording of the meeting on YouTube.

Ethics - do they matter?

How important are ethics in business? in personal lives? to you?

In the Columbia, S.C. news since late last year have been items of ethical issues involving members of the Richland 2 School Board members.

Most of these matters have now been cleared up.

There is one major matter outstanding. It involves the fines and penalties assessed against Amelia McKie, Chair of the Richland 2 School Board. She owes more than $51,000 to the South Carolina Ethics Commission.

Mrs. McKie's first term on the Board was 2014-2018. She ran for re-election and was successful on November 6, 2018. In the latter half of 2018 she served as Chair of the Board, having been elected to that position by the Board members serving at the time of the election of officers of the board.

On November 13, 2018, Mrs. McKie was administered the oath of office and commenced her duties as Board member for the term of office 2018-2022.

Mrs. McKie had failed to file numerous required documents with the South Carolina Ethics Commission. These required documents included quarterly campaign financial disclosure filings and annual Statements of Economic Interests.

Other media have reported the details of the missing reports and the starting levels of fines. As Mrs. McKie refused to pay the fines that were being levied against her, the amounts increased. Other media have reported that, when she failed to make a payment by December 31, 2018, a large penalty was added, and her fines and penalties now total over $51,000.

Where is the outrage over the Chairperson of a public School Board owing this sizable sum of money to the Ethics Commission?

Only a handful of parents have spoken up at school board meetings. There has been, up until now, no way for one parent to know of another parent's complaints.

There is, on the part of some parents, a feeling that Mrs. McKie was not legally entitled to have her name on the November 2018 General Election ballot, due to her lack of compliance with required filings at the S.C. Ethics Commission. I have not researched that myself.

It was a close election for the four open seats (seven Board members). The top five vote-getters were
  • Amelia McKie (I) 26,033
  • James Manning (I) 21,740
  • Teresa Jones Holmes 20,398
  • Cheryl Caution Parker (I) 19,182
  • Craig Plank (I) 17,313

Is there a valid school board?

At the March 12, 2019, school board meeting, I read the following statement:

Members of the Board and Supt. Davis,
My name is Gus Philpott.
As much as anyone here tonight, I regret having to bring this issue again to your attention. It will continue to come up until the problem is resolved.
I believe that two of the Board members are not legally entitled to sit. I believe you must immediately leave your seats. I hope the attorney for the School District is present now to advise you.
To sit at these desks, to act as Board members and make decisions involving student affairs and millions of dollars of District assets, each of you must be duly elected and properly sworn in.
This Board has had an unresolved legal problem since November 13, 2018. Why do I say this?
Election day was November 6, 2018.
According to a message from Richland 2 School District, on November 13 Mrs. McKie was administered the oath of office for the 2018-to-2022 term of office and entered upon the duties of Board member. If the oath of office was administered to Ms. Holmes on that date, this applies to her, too. I assert that administration of the oath of office to them was in violation of State law.
South Carolina Code of Laws Section 8-13-1110(A) reads in part, “No public official … may take the oath of office or enter upon his official responsibilities unless he has filed a statement of economic interests in accordance with the provision of this chapter with the appropriate supervisory office.” Violating this Section is a misdemeanor under Code of Laws Section 8-13-1520.
As of November 18th Mrs. McKie had not filed the State of Economic Interests Report with the South Carolina Ethics Commission. She did not do so until December 4, 2018. Ms. Holmes also filed her first Statement of Economic Interests on December 4th.
Thus, having not filed the required Statement, neither was eligible to take office.
The proper action is for Mrs. McKie and Ms. Holmes to stand up now and step away from the Board. Immediately. Mrs. McKie is not legally a Board member and cannot be the Chair of this Board.
When the Chair’s position is vacant, the Vice-Chair assumes the duties of the Chair.
If she does not immediately leave the Board, then all of you become complicit in the illegal functioning of this Board.
Should they be administered the oath of office at some future date, then they can become Board members. Mrs. McKie cannot reclaim the position of Chair, unless she would be elected to it a future regular election of officers.

As both were not legally Board members, I request that the District recover all funds improperly paid to them. A review of all decisions made by this Board should be made. If their votes were the deciding votes in any decision regarding a student suspension, expulsion or transfer or in any financial or other matter, I request a new vote on each matter.

At the end of the March 12th Board meeting, Ms. Holmes made her Board comments. You can hear her toward the end of the YouTube video. It was the only time during the entire meeting that any Board member spoke loudly and clearly into the microphone. She defended her legitimacy of Board membership.

After the end of the meeting, I approached Teresa Holmes. A Richland County deputy stood by our conversation. Ms. Holmes told me in no uncertain terms that she was doing nothing wrong and was properly on the Board.

By the time I was 18 (and that was quite a few years ago), I had become acquainted with the phrase "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." I think those words do not exist in her vocabulary.

New (unofficial) blog

Greetings to all parents, students, teachers, staff, community members and taxpayers.

This blog has been established to give you a chance to share your voices about school board matters. I am a resident of Richland 2 in Columbia, South Carolina. I am not a parent of a Richland 2 student; however, I have advocated for a special education student in Richland 2, complained about how a School Resource Officer involvement was mishandled in Richland 2, and have advocated for years in a special ed department in a school district in northern Illinois before moving to Columbia in 2014.

Richland 2 school board meetings are video-recorded and are archived on YouTube. To find them, go to and search for Richland 2. That's the easy part. The hard part will be staying awake for 3½ hours, if you start watching a number of them prior to March 12, 2019.

This blog is my personal opinion. Comments will be open, with this decision subject to review and change. If comments are respectful and contain language that you would use in your mother's presence, they will remain. Please post comment under your true name. Anonymous comments containing offensive, personal attacks will be deleted. You can whine about deleted comments, if you want; it won't do any good.

OK, onto the meat...