Saturday, June 15, 2019

Critical Election June 25

On June 25, 2019 the Richland 2 School Board will elect its officers for the next school year. This election occurs annually, and it was placed on the Agenda for the June 25, 2019 School Board meeting.

The three officers to be elected are Board Chair, Board Vice Chair and Board Secretary.

Should the "high school club" atmosphere of the current "majority" be allowed to continue?

The impact of last year's election has been felt through this school year. Last June Amelia McKie was elected by the board to serve as Board Chair from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. That choice has resulted in long, disorganized school board meetings; dissension among board members; constant calls for compliance with State law; resignation by the Board Secretary (officer); failure to sanction a board member who violated Board Policy by launching a personal and false claim of harassment against a community member with the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

It is the Board Chair and the Superintendent who set the agendas for future meetings. Dissenting board members find it very difficult to get unpopular issues on the agenda for a meeting.

Did the board bother to conduct any due diligence before electing McKie?

If it had, it should have uncovered that she had failed to file required annual Statement of Economic Interests Reports with the South Carolina Ethics Commission for 2015, 2016 and 2017. Those were violations of Board Policy and a violation of State law. A search of the Public Index of the Richland County Fifth Judicial Circuit would have revealed personal information that should have been taken into consideration.

Will McKie seek a second term as Board Chair? She owes $51,750 in fines and penalties to the South Carolina Ethics Commission (as of 6/11/2019). The Ethics Commission should be turning that debt over to the S.C. Department of Revenue for collection.

If she does seek re-election as Chair, what significance with the board give to her current debt to the South Carolina Ethics Commission, on which no meaningful payments have been made?

The board tried to adopt a new Board Policy earlier this year that might have caught up McKie. That proposed policy would have given the board authority to remove an officer; not remove the person from the board, but remove that person as an officer. The vote was 3-4 (including Nay votes of McKie and Holmes). Without those two votes (and there is good reason to omit both votes), the result would have been 3-2 - a Passing vote!

The board could, but won't, remove her from the board. S.C. Code of Laws §59-19-60 reads,

"School district trustees shall be subject to removal from office for cause by the county boards of education, upon notice and after being given an opportunity to be heard by the county board of education. Any such order of removal shall state the grounds thereof, the manner of notice and the hearing accorded the trustee, and any such trustee shall have the right to appeal to the court of common pleas, as provided in Section 59-19-560. Vacancies occurring in the membership of any board of trustees for any cause shall be filled for the unexpired term by the county board of education in the same manner as provided for full-term appointments.

There is no "county board of education" for Richland County. Richland 2 is that board of education. Richland 2 School Board Policy is that a vacant trustee position will be filled by special election conducted by the the Richland County Council. There have been two vacant positions since November 6, 2018.

What "cause" could the board use? How about failure to file required annual forms with the State Ethics Commission? Former Gov. Nikki Haley removed a Richland County Councilman for failure to pay S.C. income taxes for three years. Mrs. Haley referred to that as an act of moral turpitude.

When the school board gets ready to elect its officers for the coming year, it must select three with impeccable integrity, character, honesty, ethics, principles and responsibility.

As it happens, there are three on the board with those qualities who will be eligible for election as an officer for 2019-2020. And it's not the majority that McKie refers to so often as supportive of the superintendent.