Saturday, August 24, 2019

Oath of Office - Important?

What is the oath of office that a school board trustee takes? Is it important to take the oath of office? To take it legally?

From the South Carolina Code of Laws:

Title 8 - Public Officers and Employees


Commissions, Oaths, and Bonds

SECTION 8-3-10. Oath and commission prerequisite to assumption of duties.

It shall be unlawful for any person to assume the duties of any public office until he has taken the oath provided by the Constitution and been regularly commissioned by the Governor.

Section 8-3-10 makes it very clear. The words "It shall be unlawful..." are not hazy.

So what happened in November 2018?

On November 6, 2018 Amelia McKie and Teresa Holmes were elected to the Richland 2 school board.

On November 13, 2018, they took the oath of office in violation of Section 8-13-1110. This law prohibits taking the oath of office without first filing Statements of Economic Interests (with the South Carolina Ethics Commission). They had not filed the required Statements. Taking the oath of office illegally is like not taking it at all.

On December 4, 2018, they filed the required Statements.

NEITHER has taken the oath of office since becoming eligible to do so on December 4, 2018.

Thus, both violated Section 8-3-10. Neither has taken the oath of office legally.

Now the following law becomes important.

SECTION 8-3-220. Bonds of public officers may be sued on.

The bond of any public officer in this State may at all times be sued on by the public, any corporation or private person aggrieved by any misconduct of any such public officer.

I am personally aggrieved by the failure of Richland 2 School District to administer the oath of office legally to McKie and Holmes and by their not taking it legally.

McKie and Holmes are undoubtedly covered under the bond for board members. But could this present a problem? Because they have never become legal board members, they aren't eligible to be covered under the bond. Does the insurance company know that they are not legal board members?

It just gets deeper and deeper!

Who is responsible for this error? The Board is responsible.

The Superintendent? While he just works there, he also is responsible because he is the chief administrator of the District. He is supposed to know all the rules and provide guidance to the Board. But he cannot "tell" the Board what to do. What he can tell them is the consequences of failing to do their duties. But it's the Board that has the ultimate authority and responsibility.

Where is the attorney for the school district in all this? The legal issue is not hard to understand. McKie and Holmes have never taken the oath of office legally, yet they have been allowed to act as board members.

So, why doesn't the Board (there are five legal members of the Board) tell McKie and Holmes to raise their right hands and repeat the following words:

"First, I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I am duly qualified, according, [sic] to the Constitution of this State, to exercise the duties of the office to which I have been elected (or appointed), and that I will, to the best of my ability, discharge the duties thereof, and preserve and protect and defend the Constitution of this State and of the United States. So help me God."