Thursday, March 21, 2019

Will you be trespassing at a R2 School Board meeting?

Trespassing is a crime; right? Everybody got that?

OK, so pay attention at the end of a Richland 2 School Board meeting and make sure you are not committing trespass.

Here's my opinion. I am not a lawyer. I've probably said 10,000 times in my lifetime. I am, however, a person who can read the words in the law and understand them. You'll likely soon encounter some who cannot.

Here's what trespassing is.

If you see a sign that reads, "No Trespassing", and you pass beyond it, you are trespassing.

If you are told to leave a place (depends on who is telling you) and you fail to leave, you are trespassing.

If you are told (by a person in authority) to leave and you do leave, but you come right back, you are trespassing.

If you are issued a Notice of Trespass, obey it until it expires or you get it canceled.

If you are standing in a public meeting room with others who have attended the meeting and you fail to immediately leave the premises as soon as the gravel drops at the end of the meeting, I believe you are not trespassing.

If you have had some experience with this after a Richland 2 school board meeting, please contact me. I will respect the confidentiality of our conversation. If you don't want your name used, I shall never use it.

Citizen accused by R2 Board member

Last Thursday I was strongly encouraged (I would call it a "warning") not to approach members of the Richland 2 School Board after meetings have adjourned. Don't approach them; don't speak to them; don't attempt to engage in any manner. The meeting is over. You have nothing to discuss with them. Even if you speak in a conversational tone and in no way are threatening, one or more of them might feel harassed.

The risk? Such an approach could be considered harassment. When the meeting is over, it is o-v-e-r.

If that's true, then the Board members should immediately exit stage right and leave by the rear door, avoiding all parents or other community members who might like to speak with them.

Where did that caution come from?

I received a telephone call informing me that a harassment report had been filed with the sheriff's department that had my name in it. The deputy said he wanted to hear my side of the story. I instantly knew my decision, and I said, "First I'd like to read the report." I immediately drove to the Sheriff's Department on Two Notch Road and was promptly met by the deputy. We went to the office of the Deputy Chief in charge of the Criminal Investigations Division. Perhaps most people would feel intimidated. I did not.

I was shown the Incident Report and given time to read it. The name of the person filing the report was one of the Richland 2 School Board members, Teresa Holmes. I read the report carefully and pointed out several false statements and exaggerations. I suggested that they first investigate her report and get the facts.

Here is what the narrative of the report said: "C/V (School Board Member) came into RCSD to report that a man that has approached her at several Richland County School Board meetings is harassing her. C/V states she feels threatened by the subjects [sic] behavior. Besides the meetings where she has been approached by the subject, the C/V states he has sent her numerous emails attacking her. The emails proveded [sic] by the C/V have the subject's PH# listed as 847.971.7083. A case number was issued to the C/V."

FALSE STATEMENT IN REPORT: "approached her at several Richland County School Board meetings"

FACT: I approached Teresa Holmes one time only. It was after the end of the March 12th Board meeting. AND Sheriff's Department Lt. Rhoades was standing right next to us during our entire, short conversation. One time is not "several".

FALSE STATEMENT IN REPORT: "is harassing her."

FACT: Standing in a public meeting room, having a calm conversation, is not harassment. Had any harassment occurred, don't you think Lt. Rhoades would have taken immediate action?

FALSE STATEMENT IN REPORT: "Besides the meetings..."  (plural)

FACT: One meeting.

FALSE STATEMENT IN REPORT: "has sent her numerous emails attacking her"

FACT: No email has been sent only to Teresa Holmes. Any email I sent about Board business is sent to all Board members. I have never attacked her.

The report shown to me on Thursday listed Harassment as the Incident Type on Line 1. Imagine my surprise when I picked up a copy of the report on March 25 and found the Incident Type had been changed to Intimidation. This apparently happened when the Records Division coded the report for electronic filing purposes.

As the Sergeant, Deputy Chief and I talked further on Thursday, the two deputies acknowledged that I had not committed any crime. They showed me the statute on harassment (S.C. Code of Laws 16-3-1700) and explained that I had not violated it.

They told me they don't want anything to happen. I explained that I had not been at any meeting where something had been close to happening. I certainly am not going to cause something to happen. Further, I told them that if I observed anyone threatening or harassing a Board member, I'd instantly be right in the middle of it to defend that Board member.

They assured me that they understand it is my right to speak to the Board in public at meetings and to address them on official matters. In every communication I have been polite, respectful, truthful and direct. All my written communications have been addressed to the full Board. Never - not even once - did I send an individual email to the complaining Board member.

I explained that I believe there are two people on the Board illegally. The sergeant asked if I wanted them kicked off the Board. I told him that is not my intention; they were elected, and all I want is for them to be sworn in - legally. Per the School District, as of March 18 they have not been sworn in since filing their Statements of Economic Interests on December 4.

The taxpayers, voters, parents, students, residents of the Richland 2 School District deserve a legal Board.

If you agree, step up.Show up at the Board meeting tonight, Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at 6:30PM at R2i2. If you want to speak, sign up on the speaker's form AND fill out the silly, but required, second form. Be sure you personally present that completed second form to a deputy or Richland 2 security officer (get his name) who will give it to the Board. If you fail to fill out that second form and turn it in, you are out of luck.

Email your Board members. Remember now, don't "harass" them. Be clear, polite, respectful, proper, sincere, direct and tell them what you want them to do. Tell them to stop operating illegally and to swear in Mrs. McKie and that other one.