Thursday, May 16, 2019

Ever a defense?

Is there ever a defense for breaking the law?

Since December I've spent a lot of time thinking about the embarrassing situation at the Richland 2 School District.

The Board Chair owes over $51,000 in fines and penalties to the S.C. Ethics Commission.
Two people are illegally in office on the Board.

Now there is a controversy over Officers' signatures on the District's $468,000,000 bond documents.

Not small potatoes.

I was reminded this week of the ticket I got in Woodstock, Ill. in 2007. I was driving a 1999 VW New Beetle and had had recurring problems with headlights burning out often. One cold night, as I started my car and turned on the lights, I noticed the left headlight was out. I was 15 miles from home. What could I do? Just drive home and get it fixed in the morning. I almost made it!

In the block of my residence and just before I could turn into my driveway, a Woodstock cop pulled me over. He walked up and asked if I knew the headlight was out. When I explained and told him that I already had an appointment to have it replaced at 8:00AM the next day, he said he'd write me a Warning. No problem.

He returned to the warmth of his patrol car to write up the Warning, and a second patrol car showed up. I could see the cops talking. Then Cop #1 came back to my window and said, "I'm going to give you a ticket." When I asked what had just happened, all he would do is repeat his words.

I knew the ticket was a non-moving violation with a $75.00 fine, but I prepared to fight it. I planned to subpoena all the documents, the two officers, their supervisor, their department and personal cell phone records, transcripts and recordings of the police radio transmissions about the stop, the Records Dept. sergeant, the training officer, statistics for number of tickets vs. warnings for burned-out headlights, etc., etc. I planned on a real dog-and-pony show in Traffic Court.

I could pay the $75.00 before the day of court.
If I went to court and won, there would be no fine.
If I went to court and lost, I'd have to pay the $75.00 plus $200.00 in court fines and fees.

And then I thought about the likely last words and question by the judge . "Nice job, Mr. Philpott. Now tell me, was the headlight out?"

I paid the $75.00.

Two and one-half years later Cop #1, who was no longer with the department, called me. He thanked me for never having asked again what had happened when Cop #2 showed up. He told me that Cop #2 had reminded him of an order at the P.D. that, if I ever got stopped for anything, I was to get a ticket, not a warning.

It seems I had sent too many emails to the P.D. complaining about speeding cops and cops running Stop signs. I had also asked their help in stopping many dangerous drivers, who were later convicted in Traffic Court.

5/14/19 Board Meeting - 4 HOURS

Did the Richland 2 School Board set a record on Tuesday, May 14? The meeting ran 3 hours 54 minutes, and that's in addition to the 30-minute budget input time and the 60-minute executive session.

A clue to the length of the meeting shows up right at the beginning of the recorded video on YouTube. Mrs. McKie rambled on and on while introducing Keith Price, who was to give the Inspiration Moment. As an Assistant Principal he is obligated to attend board meetings. She should have just introduced him and let him proceed.

The Board fails to control the length of the Inspiration Moment. It should be brief. It should be a "moment"; to me, that's a minute or two. Mr. Price is a good reader. His six-minute, three-page "Inspirational Moment" would have better as a two-minute, one-page comment.

McKie started to say "coming off of the May 1st day of protest", but she corrected herself to refer to Teacher Appreciation Week.

At (23:30) be sure to watch the segment with Principal Bobby Cunningham of the W.R. Rogers Center. He is an excellent speaker and he covered the information about his school in an interesting and rapid manner.

McKie must be running for office somewhere. Her effusive thanks to Mr. Cunningham, while slipping in a few toots on her own horn, were far too long and too gushy. There was something different about McKie Tuesday evening - some rambling, stumbling with wording and lack of cohesive statements that hadn't been obvious at earlier meetings this year. And then she burst into applause for Mr. Cunningham, which was unique to Board meetings. Watch her expression, as she led the applause.

At (34:45), the beginning of the public participation segment, Mrs. Agostini asked to make some remarks. McKie postponed Mrs. Agostini and said she had a couple of comments. Then McKie read the Rules of the Road. Man! I expected her to say, "Did you get all that, Gus?"

If you listen carefully to her words, you'll know why you never hear from any staffer after you make comments during the public participation segment. The Board never discusses public comments or, as a Board (decision), directs the Superintendent to assign someone to respond.

In other words, if you are lucky enough to say something pleasing to McKie, you might get your three minutes. If not, she'll gavel you in submission, which Ms. Holmes had asked her to do earlier this year. If you attended any Board meetings last year, before McKie took the top perch on the roost, they were run in a friendly, professional, competent manner, and the public didn't get beaten up.

McKie could have just said, "If you ain't got somethin' nice to say, don't even think about standing up to say anything."

And then McKie totally blew off Mrs. Agostini and introduced the first speaker for the public comment period. TALK ABOUT A SNUB!

Mrs. Agostini addressed inconsistencies occurring regarding public participation and described changes in the form which the public must sign in order to speak. She referred to a March 12th change in the sign-up sheet's wording, after she received complaints about changes in speaker order. McKie had assumed control over the order of speakers.

Mrs. Agostini continued. On February 12 a speaker was denied speaking time, because she had not filled out the forms in time. Agostini mentioned that, under the previous Board Chair, any one was welcome to speak, whether he had signed up or not. McKie said she would strictly adhere to Board Policy and wanted to be "as ethical and policy-abiding" as possible. Then, on March 26, McKie did not act as ethically and policy-abiding as possible, and she allowed a speaker who had not complied with her rules to speak. And she cut off a speaker (me) when a second topic was mentioned.

Again watch McKie's expression of conceit and disrespect toward Mrs. Agostini. Her smirks and childish behavior are completely out-of-place for the position of a Board Chair.

Then McKie accused people of using her "graceness (graciousness?) and latitude for personal gain and for insult"/ Well, Lawdy Lawd!!! To whom could she be referring? What does she really mean?

If McKie is going to prohibit personal attack, of which there haven't been any, she should refrain from attacking a member of the public. Remarks about failures of public officials are not personal attacks!

Then listen carefully to McKie's snarky "thanks" to Mrs. Agostini for bringing up her remarks. And watch her expression.

At (41:14) the first speaker, James Mobley, was introduced and McKie welcomed him with "we'd love to hear from you." WHOA, NELLIE! What's that about?

I am curious whether the Board has lost confidence in Amelia McKie.

The board's effort to create a Board Policy that would have enabled them to remove an Officer (such as the Chair) failed earlier this year. Actually, it passed, and the Board should act to correct that. Why did it really pass?

The vote on that proposed Board Policy was 3-4. Three for, four against. It failed. However, Mrs. McKie and Ms. Holmes are illegally on the Board. Without their votes the Policy would have passed 3-2. Counting the same three as For but leaving only two Against. There have been other votes that were declared with the wrong outcome.

The Board will eventually be held accountable for these errors.

Budget Input Session 2

On May 14 the Richland 2 School Board held a second Budget Input session. It was scheduled for 30 minutes at 5:00PM, before the regular one-hour Executive Session.

The video-recording of the May 14, 2019 Board meeting has been posted to YouTube. The recording begins at 5:30PM with an announcement that the ½-hour session for the budget input had concluded. Where is the recording of what actually happened during that 30-minute public School Board meeting???

Did anyone show up?

If they did, their words to the Board are lost forever. That public meeting should have been recorded and included in the YouTube video. Perhaps it would have just shown 30 minutes of seven people staring at their fingernails or shuffling papers.

So, how many members of the public showed up and what did they say?

If no one showed up or only one or two, the question must be asked, What did the District do to notify parents of 27,000 students, voters, taxpayers and community members of that valuable time for putting their 2¢ in for the Board's consideration was available?

If there was little or no announcement to the public of the budget-input session, is it any wonder that no one showed up? Only one woman showed up at the last budget-input session.

Scheduling it at 5:00PM assures a low turn-out of the public. End-of-day commutes, after-school shuttling of children, dinner-time -- all interfere with getting to a 5:00PM public comment session.

Why didn't the Board schedule it for the beginning of the 6:30PM public session or place it on the agenda?

My guess is that a survey of the public, asking them what they think "budget input" is for, would have them shaking their heads.

Perhaps one of the Board members will enlighten the public at the May 28th Board meeting.