Thursday, December 19, 2019

Special Election Needed for R2?

On December 31, 2019 a special election will be held to fill the vacant seat of a departing board member of the Richland 1 School District. The man accepted employment in Nebraska and resigned his seat on the board. State law dictates when the special election has to be held, and it should have been scheduled for December 24th. That day, however, is a holiday, and the election was re-scheduled to December 31.

Now, what's the deal in Richland 2?

There are two women on the board who are usurping the public office of school board trustee. Two seats on the Richland 2 School Board are actually vacant, but the District and the Board will not declare them vacant. If they were declared vacant, a special election would be held to fill them. (I recall reading somewhere that the Richland County Council would appoint their replacements (not actually "replacements").

Amelia McKie and Teresa Holmes were elected on November 6, 2018 and then took the oath of office illegally on November 13, 2018. Thus, they never became legal board members, and the Board has had two empty seats ever since.

The seats haven't actually been empty, because the five legal members of the Board have allowed McKie and Holmes to act like Board Trustees. The Board seems to be relying on legal advice that includes "interpretations" of laws. The laws themselves are clear; McKie and Holmes violated the laws.

The state law is clear. South Carolina Code of Laws Section 8-13-1110 says you cannot take the oath of office unless the required document (Statement of Economic Interests Report (SEI)) has been filed (with the S.C. Ethics Commission). McKie and Holmes got caught empty-handed by a local independent newspaper and then filed their SEIs on December 4, 2018 (three weeks later).

The kicker is that neither has taken the oath of office - legally - since December 4, 2018. That's now more than one year ago. On June 26, 2019 District 2 confirmed the absence of any oath since November 13, 2018, and I re-stated my request to be informed of any ceremony scheduled to administer the oath of office to them. I have received no such notice.

State law Section 8-3-10 states that is "unlawful for any person to assume the duties of any public office until he has taken the oath..." The underlying assumption must be that this mean "legally" taking the oath of office. If you take the oath of office illegally, it doesn't count.

State law Section 15-63-60 addresses those who usurp public office.

Why is Richland 2 School District allowing McKie and Holmes to act like school board trustees, participate in closed Executive Sessions, hear confidential school board and school district matters, vote on expulsion and student suspensions, participate in open sessions, get paid for doing so?

The Board seems to believe that it cannot prevent McKie and Holmes to taking their seats. Of course, it can. It's not a case of "removing" them. They don't have any right to be there in the first place!

One simple remedy is for McKie and Holmes to take their oaths of office now. They can, because they became legally "eligible" to so on December 4, 2018, after they filed their SEIs.

However, this will create a huge problem for the Board, because it will have to review every board vote since November 13, 2018 that was decided by the two votes. The votes of McKie and Holmes will have to be removed, and a fair number decisions will change from Pass to Fail, or vice versa.

And the District will be forced to recover the monies paid to McKie and Holmes for the period when they were not legal trustees. Otherwise, the District will be caught in the bind of unauthorized payments by a public body.

Richland 2 continues to call itself a "premier" school district with a "premier" board. With two people illegally on the board, it certainly is not.