Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Board says "No" to Access to Attorney

Since February 2019 I have asserted that Amelia McKie and Teresa Holmes are not legitimate members of the Richland 2 School Board.

During the summer I requested a meeting with the Board Chair and the attorney for the School District:

At the end of August I received this reply on behalf of the School Board:

"We have sought counsel from several entities, including our legal counsel, that have all assured us that our board members are legal members of the board based on current State Law, interpretation of that law, and all matters related to State Ethics. While I understand your desire to hear more from our counsel on this directly, it is not appropriate for me to have legal counsel engage with you as a member of the public on this matter."

My concern hinges on these facts:

1. Both took an oath of office illegally and before they were eligible to do so.
2. Neither McKie nor Holmes has ever taken the oath of office legally.

McKie's 2014-2018 term of office ended on November 6, 2018. She was re-elected on November 6, 2018 for the term 2018-2022. She took the oath of office illegally on November 13, 2018. She attended and participated in the November 13, 2018 school board meeting. However, the 2018-2022 term legally began one week after her election was certified. Her election was certified on November 9, 2018, and the term of office began on November 16, 2018, three days after that board meeting.

While she was "qualified" to become a trustee for the school board term on 2018-2022, she was not eligible to be sworn in, because she had not filed a Statement of Economic Interests Report with the South Carolina Ethics Commission.

By the November election date McKie was subject to an Order and Decision by the S.C. Ethics Commission for numerous violations of ethics laws. She now owes $51,750, and a Judgment was filed in Richland County Common Pleas Court on July 10, 2019. The S.C. Department of Revenue should begin collection efforts soon, which may include wage garnishment, attachment of assets, seizure of bank accounts and other steps to collect the $51,750.

The problem is the same for Holmes, because she violated the law on November 13, 2018 and has never legally taken the oath of office. And now she is serving as Board Vice Chairman, an office to which she is not entitled.

Because McKie has never legally taken the oath of office (on or after December 4, 2018), I assert she is not a legal board member and also that she could not continue after November 6, 2018 as Board Chair (which the Board allowed her to do to the end of that term of office on June 30, 2019).

The "counsel" that the Board received from "several entities" appears to be faulty. Even the counsel from the District's own attorney appears to be in error. The logical question is who were the "several entities".

The State law (S.C. Code of Laws 8-13-1110(A) is absolutely clear. McKie and Holmes violated it. The Ethics Commission fined Holmes $100.00 because she filed her SEI late. But the Ethics Commission addresses only civil matters, not criminal matters. The Ethics Commission doesn't prosecute criminal matters.

State criminal laws were violated. Ethics laws were violated. The advice to the School Board must hinge on "interpretation" of state law.

I have never been shy about disagreeing with legal opinions that appear to be wrong. In Colorado I questioned an attorney whose advice was about to cause a mutual client $75,000 in unnecessary Federal Income Tax. The lawyer told me he had the best tax attorney in Colorado on his staff, and I told him he'd better go to Wyoming (90 miles north) for a second opinion. When I told him that I would urge our mutual client to get his legal advice about the specific section of the IRS Code on his letterhead (thereby establishing proof of his advice), his response was, "Let me call you back in a couple of hours."

He called back ten minutes later and told me the client would not be making the change (that would have resulted in the client's $75,000 tax expense)!

In March 2019 I suggested the simple, cost-free remedy to the School Board. Just administer the oath of office - legally - to McKie and Holmes. It didn't, and it hasn't done so. The longer the Board waits, the more it will cost them to go all the way back of November 13, 2018 and correct all the decisions that include votes by McKie and Holmes. Some important decisions will change. Many decisions on student transfers and expulsions will change.