Thursday, August 13, 2020

Taxes not paid? Can't run for office

We need a law here in South Carolina like the law in Louisiana.

According to The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge, "To qualify to run for public office, candidates must certify [emphasis in the original] that they have filed state income tax returns for each of the five previous years."

A candidate for mayor-president in East Baton Rouge has an unclear record regarding payment of her state income taxes. 

There were questions about more than one year's return, and an appeals court ruled against her. She can't run for office. The fight is probably not over.

The point is, pay your income taxes by the due date. Then you don't end up in hot water. You avoid fines, late fees, court action and liens. And a bad reputation.

But owing state income in South Carolina? Big deal, when it comes to running for office.


Board Fiasco on BEDGA

Last Tuesday the school board considered proposed policy BEDGA, which allows the superintendent to reject a request from a board member for information. Should the superintendent, in his sole opinion, deem a school board member's request as unusual or excessive, he can deny it. At that point the board member would have to seek a majority decision of the board to force the superintendent to comply with the request.

When you consider the make-up of the current board and the issues, BEDGA effectively blocks a proper request after the superintendent denies it. He can count on Holmes, McKie, Shadd, Caution-Parker, and Manning to give him anything he wants. So much for independent thinkers!

I am currently researching the details and timing that resulted in this very unusual policy, but the part about Tuesday's meeting that should appall you is the huge disrespect shown to one board member by the superintendent and two other board members, including the board chair.

View the replay of the board meeting on YouTube; the discussion of BEDGA starts at 19:12 on the timer.

Mrs. Agostini led with a Motion to send BEDGA to the South Carolina Attorney General for a legal Opinion. After too long a pause, Dr. Elkins-Johnson seconded the motion, keeping the motion alive for discussion.

The person making the Motion (Mrs. Agostini) should have been recognized to speak first on the Motion. But Shadd recognized Dr. Elkins ahead of her. Dr. Elkins had a question for the superintendent about whether a proposed policy had ever been sent to the AG for an opinion. Then she erred by asking whether he felt that sending it to the AG was needed or if it was something he could answer for the board.

WRONG QUESTION. It doesn't matter whether he felt it was needed. It is the Board's prerogative to get a legal opinion from the AG. And the superintendent certainly cannot give a legal opinion to the board!

The superintendent began answering at 20:28. First he answered that he didn't know of any school district that had done so. That should have been the end of his answer. Then he said that the attorney for the school district had crafted the policy. He has faith that the attorney knows and understands the law. Then Dr. Elkins asked again for the superintendent's opinion, so that she'd be able to decide how to vote.

It didn't matter what the superintendent thought. Anyone thinking about this would surmise that the superintendent would not want the AG to issue an opinion. There were five board members ready to vote in favor of BEDGA without an opinion from the AG, so why possibly muddy the water??? 

The superintendent then proceeded to elaborate on a previous AG opinion that does NOT apply to the proposed policy. And on and on he went. At this point the board chair should have interrupted him. But the most of the board members do not understand Robert's Rules of Order. The superintendent ran off the rails by dragging out his explanation of the AG's previous opinion that did not apply to the Motion.

Then he threw in "documents that are deemed to be over-reaching". In. his. opinion. He kept harping on the previous Opinion, which Mrs. Agostini already knew did not apply, which was why she was asking for BEDGA to be sent to the AG.

I have written previously that the superintendent can say in 500-1000 words what could be said in 25 words. He loves his own voice and self-importance. And the board lets him get away with it.

At 24:05 he said that the documents that Mrs. Agostini did request were given to her. True? False? As Snopes would say, MIXED. What the superintendent did not say was that he had refused to meet her request and only provided the answer two weeks later. So his statement at the board meeting was misleading and deceitful.

Later he said he had responded in a timely manner. No! If that were true, yesterday's discussion wouldn't have been occurring and no time or money would have been wasted on crafting BEDGA.

Then the superintendent expressed concern from "this administration" (he loves speaking in the third person) and brought up the Board's Code of Ethics, insinuating that Mrs. Agostini had violated the Code of Ethics. That's absurd. If there is one ethical person on the school board, it is Mrs. Agostini.

The superintendent then went on to broaden his examples beyond the current question, and the board chair let him get away with it. Had there been a Parliamentarian in the meeting, he would have been shouting "Point of Order" and shut down the superintendent.

When the superintendent whined to the previous board chair, James Manning, about Mrs. Agostini's request for an email earlier this year, Manning asked the School District's attorney, Kathryn Mahoney, to draft a policy.  It was the superintendent who brought up his wish for this policy. He shoveled Agostini's previous information request to "outside the scope and responsibility of the board".

Then he said that he personally thinks BEDGA is necessary for the District and that he never thought they'd be in this position. What a load of horse manure!

At 26:55 Mrs. Agostini raised her hand to speak, but Dr. Elkins continued. Dr. Elkins asked to see any policies of other school district's before voting.

At 27:49 Mrs. Agostini "respectfully" disagreed with the superintendent about "financial information". Information given to the board at the January 7, 2020 board meeting was inconsistent with that which was later related to employees. THAT is what her request was about - the request for information that the superintendent did not want to provide.

Mrs. Agostini had circulated information to board members about the inherent right of elected officials to get information. She re-stated her request to send BEDGA to the AG for an opinion.

At 30:00 the superintendent began with "As I stated earlier,..."  Since he had already stated it earlier, there was no need to re-state whatever he was about to say. Remember, his remarks had started six minutes earlier.

The superintendent said no information was denied to the board member. He said the information was requested and it was provided. "And it was done in a timely matter." No, he provided it two weeks later!

The superintendent stated - incorrectly - that the earlier opinion from the A.G. applied [to this situation]. If it did, Mrs. Agostini would not have been requesting that BEDGA be sent to the A.G. Why should the superintendent get away with deceiving the board?

(31:00) "This information, and I am going to speak frankly, was solely requested for the purpose of the superintendent's evaluation (there he goes in the third person one more time) to mark the superintendent low in his ability to do his job..."

Where was Board Chair Shadd? Taking a nap? He should have cut Baron Davis off and should have admonished him not to speculate on Mrs. Agostini's reason for requesting the information that she did! Then the superintendent used the word "justification". At that point (31:22) Mrs. Agostini raised her hand to be recognized. At 31:36 she raised her hand again. And again at 31:40 she raised her hand.

Then the superintendent acknowledged that he had said previously that schools would not have to spend their money (the reference is to special monies, including to media specialists) before the end of the fiscal year (June 30). Then he "schooled" the board on their responsibilities...  

Supt. Davis has a lot of gall to lecture the board on their responsibilities. That is NOT in his job description. (At 32:43 and 33:05 Mrs. Agostini again raised her hand.)

The superintendent continued, "This policy was created as a safeguard. It is unfortunate that we are here, but it is solely result of a lack of professionalism and trust as it relates to one board member and the superintendent." (At 33:28 again Mrs. Agostini raised her hand to be called on.)

Dr. Elkins and Mrs. Agostini attempted to be recognized. Shadd asked Mrs. Agostini if her remark was related to the Motion. (What did he think - that she wanted to order pizza?) She explained that it was related to what the superintendent had just said.

She should have been allowed to defend herself against the vicious, demeaning and unprofessional attack by the superintendent, but Shadd allowed Elkins to speak first.

Dr. Elkins asked if then-Board chair Manning had come before the board, before he went to the District's attorney to have the policy drafted. He could have answered Yes or No, but he didn't. Then Manning complained (36.25) about the amount of time being spent on the issue

Manning was wrong about a clear effort to "undermine the credibility of the superintendent". The issue is the authority of the board, and Manning threw Agostini under the bus with his statement. Manning disrespected his fellow board member by labeling her motion an "inappropriate request". (At 37:38 Mrs. Agostini again raised her hand to be recognized.)

Manning said he was responsible for requesting the drafting of the policy. Manning then said, "I'm frankly tired of arguing about this policy." 

While Shadd was summarizing the previous A.G. Opinion, Manning interrupted at 39:18 and asked for the vote to be called. NOTE: Mrs. Agostini was still waiting to be recognized. Shadd continued to read and summarize a court opinion.

Then Shadd said that Manning had called for the vote and asked the board to vote.


At 40:25 Mrs. Agostini against raised her hand while Shadd was re-stating the Motion. Robert's Rules of Order said that the party making the Motion should be the one to re-state it.

Mrs. Agostini asked to change her vote, and Shadd was not going to let her, until Manning interrupted with how to do it. The vote had not yet been finalized. Shadd just does not know how to conduct the business of the Board Chair. 

The vote on Mrs. Agostini's motion was announced as 6-1. Then the vote was correctly stated as 1-6. Her motion failed. Discussion ended on her motion at 41:50.