Friday, April 12, 2019

Index 4/9/2019 Meeting

Before the meeting started, I spoke with the sound man and asked if microphones are set to amplify within the room or just for the YouTube video-recording. He said there is a problem with the microphone at the podium and that voice is not amplified for the room unless the speaker leans forward and positions his mouth about 1" from the microphone.

No one is told to do that, and so no one does.

The April 9, 2019 school board meeting has been posted on YouTube. Times in parentheses below are where you will find selected items, if you don't want to waste 2 hours, 6 minutes watching the entire meeting.

McKie's chair was empty at 5:30PM, when the Board meeting briefly before adjourning to Executive Session. At 6:30PM it was still empty. I was curious why the Board members didn't slide toward the center and leave any empty chair on one end.

As soon as the public session was convened by Vice Chair Dr. Elkins-Johnson at 6:30PM, Supt. Davis interrupted (2:28 on the video on YouTube) and asked for a moment of personal privilege to read a statement provided by the Chair (Amelia McKie), who was absent.

He read, "Greetings to my fellow Richland 2 family, parents and community members. I apologize for my absence at tonight's school board meeting. As a Board member and, in particular, Chair, I take out meetings very seriously, and I am thankful to have been healthy enough to have only missed one in my five years on the board, due to death in a family. I am missing tonight's meeting to support one of my children. I pray that fellow parents will understand and ask consideration and pardon from all others. I wish you a pleasant, productive meeting. I have no doubt that the focus will remain on the myriad accomplishments of our students and faculty and the initiatives, decisions and policies that provide for a conducive and productive learning environment for (unintelligible). I'm thankful to and appreciate Dr. Davis and the Board and the premier executive staff  and all the folks in the room tonight who work tirelessly together to provide information, presentation, data ahead of time to ensure that our meetings flow as productively as possible. May God bless you all lots and lots and lots. Most respectfully, Amelia McKie."

My opinion? The Vice Chair could have simply explained that McKie was absent for a personal reason. And then moved on.

As I wrote previously, I expected to hear "Hail to the Chief" blaring through the speakers in the room. She hasn't served five years on the board; she is in her fifth year. I noticed her statement referred to a death "in a family", not in her family. I don't need her prayers and don't want to hear her say so. This is a business meeting, not a church service.

0:04:07 After McKie's long-winded statement had been read, the Vice Chair thanked Teresa Holmes for loaning her glasses to her.

0:04:45 A person introduced the speaker for the Inspirational Moment and Pledge of Allegiance.

0:06:00 The Inspirational Moment was given by a man from Spain who moved to the U.S. Although I was sitting near him, his voice did not carry into the audience and the microphone on the podium did not amplify his voice.

0:08:20 A second speaker, a woman, continued the Inspiration Moment. She stressed the importance of bilingual education. Learning another language is important to a student's future.

0:10:16 Pledge of Allegiance.

0:10:42 Motion to approve Agenda.

0:11:50 Special recognitions. Mrs. Libby Roof knows how to use the microphone at the podium. She stands close enough to it, and she speaks up in a strong voice, so that she is heard in the room and one the recording. Thank you!

0:30:47 Consent Agenda. (Does anyone wonder what is actually in the Consent Agenda?)

0:31:57 School Focus. Langford Elementary. These students were great! A secondary, portable microphone was positioned, and students spoke into it, causing their voices to be heard in the room. Recording quality degraded slightly for the video, but it was good in the room so that parents could hear. Very important. The students also created an excellent video that was shown in the room.

0:41:11 Public Participation. The first speaker was (Miss) Sterling McLean-Hasinger *. 12th Grade student at Blythewood High School. She stated that she feels the Dress Code is discriminatory and asked, "Who is being distracted by leggings and crop tops?" She asked that the school board include students in formulating the dress code.

0:44:02 The second speaker was (Miss) Cameron Jenkins, also a 12th Grader at Blythewood High School.  She believes the Dress Code is outdated and no longer relevant. She mentioned cultural stigmas regarding doo-rags and hair picks. Feels that getting called out in class on the dress code wastes time and is more distracting than handling it discretely. 

0:46:10 Legislative update.

Skipping ahead. This meeting was two hours long, and I'm skipping ahead on the Index.

0:55:42 Second reading on Policies GBEB on Staff Conduct. Motion and Second. No discussion forthcoming. Vote: 6-0. Several policies were discussed under this catch-all.

Two weeks ago there was a lengthy discussion about what a teacher should do, if a student in crisis confided in him or her. Parents should know and understand whether a teacher might inadvertently expose himself to personal liability, if he did not immediately (quickly, instantly) direct the student to a counselor and extricate himself from any situation that look like, just by listening to the student, he could be "counseling" the student. The previous discussion included reference to a student who might trust a teacher but be skeptical about seeing a counselor. If the kid can't go to a teacher, then the kid might not seek any help at all.

Just getting this far through the meeting exhausted me. If you want more, watch the video.

* Correction of spelling of student's name. 4/20/19 gp

No campaign funds for fines

The South Carolina Ethics Commission has posted Advisory Opinion 2019-001 on its website, and you can read it here.

Basically, what it says is that a candidate or person elected to office cannot use campaign funds to pay fines and penalties assessed by the Ethics Commission.

There is an interesting comparison of the Ethics Commissions' opinions of the South Carolina House of Representatives and the South Carolina Senate. The House says "No, you can't", but the Senate says "Yes, you can."

The Ethics Commission, whose authority now exists over the House and the Senate, says, "No, you can't."

Unfortunately, the door was left ajar, as is revealed in the last sentence in the Opinion. It reads, "The Commission accepts the recommendation of the Commission staff that this Opinion be issued on a prospective basis only."

Does that mean that, if Amelia McKie has any campaign funds left over, she'll be able to use donated campaign funds to settle part of her $51,850 debt at the Ethics Commission? I wonder how her donors and supporters will feel about that.

Is "moral turpitude" involved?

Today's The State newspaper reports the sentence imposed on former Richland County Council member Kelvin Washington, who pled guilty on October 1st to first-offense DUI and two counts of second-degree assault and battery. The charges resulted from a DUI crash on February 27, 2016.

The wheels of justice do slowly turn in Richland County; right? Read the article to see the slap on the wrist administered to Washington by the court.

Included in the article was mention of Washington's removal from office a month after the crash (March 2016?) by former Gov. Nikki Haley. But she didn't throw him out of the office because of the DUI or assault and battery charges. She threw him out because of his conviction for "failure to pay three years' worth on state income taxes," according to the article in The State.

Gov. Haley considered that as "moral turpitude" and gave Washington the boot.

I suppose the key element there was not just that he hadn't paid three years' worth of state income taxes, but that he was convicted of that. And how long did that case take?

Which brings me to Richland 2 School District. (I imagine you were just waiting to find out.)

McKie filed a Statement of Economic Interests on August 15, 2014 and never filed another report with the South Carolina Ethics Commission until December 4, 2018.

On December 4, 2018 McKie filed Statements of Economic Interests for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. The filing of the 2018 Statement on December 4 made her eligible to take the oath of office following her re-election to the School Board, but she has not taken an oath since then. She did take the oath of office on November 13, 2018, but that was in violation of S.C. Code of Laws Section 8-13-1110(A).

In 2019 McKie filed (late) Campaign Disclosure Forms for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

McKie's debt to the Ethics Commission is $51,850, as of April 1, 2019.

If a person failed to file required Campaign Disclosure Forms with the South Carolina Ethics Commission for four years and also didn't file a required Statement of Economic Interests Reports, and god fines thousands of dollars for that, would that decision by the Ethics Commission constitute a "conviction" and open the door for the current Governor to remove said person from the School Board for the reason that Gov. Haley used when she removed Washington?

Is it optional for the Governor to do that? Or is it incumbent upon the Governor to do so?

The Governor's Office has told me that he doesn't have the authority to remove a school board member. That's untrue.