Friday, September 20, 2019

District Actions - how transparent?

Recently, a small, black-owned, law firm was added as bond co-counsel for the Richland 2 School District.

How did it happen?

On January 22, 2019, the School Board passed a resolution involving bond matters. It appears to have relinquished absolute decision-making control over bond matters to the office of the superintendent, presently held by Baron Davis. The resolution is mentioned, but not described or attached, to the Minutes of the January 22, 2019 School Board Meeting.

The resolution is ten (10) pages long, including signatory pages. On the final page of wording, seven lines from the end, is the following wording:

"Burr Forman McNair is authorized to associate co-counsel at the direction of the Superintendent for purposes of achieving diversity in the legal team."

Were the trustees cross-eyed and delirious by the time they read all the way through the resolution that they would be expected to approve on January 22?

Jabber & Isaac P.A. ( is a small firm with two principals, both of whom are female and black. Well, there is diversity for you.

The Board of Trustees should demand answers about their selection. How did that sentence get into the resolution? Did the Board direct it? Or did the superintendent request it? Or did one board member request it?

I don't have any problem with Burr Forman McNair inviting an experienced lawyer or law firm to partner up on bond work, IF a partner is needed to handle the work load. It seems to me that Burr Forman McNair would seek a highly-qualified co-counsel. Bond work requires high expertise in a very specific field of law. When you inspect the website of Jabber & Isaac P.A., you should be asking yourself, "Where is their bond experience?"

As of today, their website lists the types of work they do. The list includes real estate; family and domestic law; estate planning and probate; business law; governmental relations; personal injury; workers' compensation; and Social Security Disability. There is no mention of municipal bond work or school bond work.

Did Burr Forman McNair select Jabber & Isaac P.A. and tell Supt. Davis that they like to pull in Jabber & Isaac as co-counsel?

Did Supt. Davis direct Burr Forman McNair to select Jabber & Isaac? If he did, why that specific form? Because the principals are women? or because they are black women?

Is there a potential conflict-of-interest between any Board Trustee and either principal at Jabber & Isaac for personal, professional or business reasons? Did the superintendent pick Jabber & Isaac on his own, or was there a "suggestion" from a board member?

On the School District website the profile of Amelia McKie includes "She is a founding partner of Nfusion, LLC, which provides governmental relations and communications/public relations services for municipal, state and private agencies. She advocates for various institutions of higher education throughout South Carolina."

The words that jump from the page are "governmental relations" and "services for municipal, state and private agencies."

Interestingly enough, the April 11, 2019 document for the sale of $26,000,000 sale of Bond Anticipation Notes lists Amelia McKie's occupation as "Community Volunteer". The document does not mention her work as a lobbyist or consultant or her position as School Board Trustee, for which she received IRS W-2 income.

Amelia McKie has been filing Lobbyist Reports since May 2009. The most recent report was filed January 28, 2019.
On the homepage, click on the link for Public Reporting
Scroll down and click on Lobbying Activity
Under Individual Reports, click on Lobbyists
Enter McKie, then click Next
Click on McKie, Amelia B
Her own firm (Nfusion, LLC) is not there, but NextEra Energy, Inc. is. (if you wonder what that is, click here.)