Sunday, September 6, 2020

What is the Authority of the Board Chair?

The Richland 2 School Board is supposed to have seven members, who are called Trustees. They are elected for four-year terms, which are staggered. Four were elected in November 2018. Three will be elected in November 2020.

At the last meeting of the School Year, which ends June 30th, the Board elects its Officers for the following school year. They serve from July 1 to June 30.

Board Policy BBAA - Board Member Authority and Responsibilities clearly specifies what individual members of the Board can and cannot do. The Board Chair is a member of the Board, and his authority is limited by Policy BBAA.

Paragraph 2 of BBAA begins with, "Board members acting as individuals have no authority over personnel or school affairs except when such authority is specifically delegated to a member by the board. Such authority will be given to an individual board member, including the chair, by a majority of the board."

Recently an issue came up with a letter that was sent by Board member James Shadd in his position as Board Chair. The point made at a board meeting was that the board had never authorized him to send such a letter. He could have sent it as an individual without mentioning Richland 2, but it was apparently sent on behalf of the District. 

The Board Chair is one of seven. 

Now we all know that, if Shadd wants the Board's permission to do something, he has plenty of followers on the board who will approve. But he should have asked. Votes on anything he wants will be 6-1 or 5-2. In a rare circumstance where he might have to recuse himself, the vote will still be 5-1 or 4-2. 

That's the Board that voters and taxpayers have to live with until the tide changes in Richland 2.

District Violated Board Policy on Nov. 13, 2018

The Richland 2 School District violated its own Policy BBB, when it swore in Amelia McKie and Teresa Holmes on November 13, 2018. Therefore, there is one more reason that McKie and Holmes are not legitimate members of the Board.

Heretofore, I have asserted that McKie and Holmes are not legitimate members of the board because they violated S.C. Code of Laws Section 8-13-1110(A) by taking the oath of office and commencing their responsibilities before they filed their Statements of Economic Interests with the S.C. Ethics Commission. That assertion of that violation is still true.

Now comes the second point by which they are illegitimate members of the Board.

The second paragraph of Board Policy BBB reads, in part, "The term of office of every elected trustee of the school district must commence one week following the certification of his/her election." [emphasis added]

McKie and Holmes were sworn in on November 13, 2018 (less than one week following certification of their election), and their notarized oaths of office are dated November 13, 2018.

The 2018 election of school board members was November 6, 2018.

The election was certified by the Richland County Elections Commission on November 9, 2018.

This means that the term of office for McKie and Holmes began on November 16, 2018, not on November 13. They should not have been seated at the November 13th Board Meeting, and their votes on any matters should be removed from the record. 

McKie and Holmes never took the oath of office at the beginning of their term of office. If the practice of Richland 2 is to administer the oath at the beginning of the term of office, why did it administer it three days early? McKie and Holmes should not have been seated at the November 13th board meeting.

They didn't even become eligible to take the oath of office until December 4, 2018, when each filed her Statement of Economic Interests with the Ethics Commission. December 4th is the earliest date they could have legally taken the oath of office. The only date they took the oath was November 13, 2018.

In addition to violating State law, they violated District Policy. The District may claim that the oath can be administered before the term of office begins, as far as the Board Policy goes. Had McKie and Holmes filed their SEIs, then the only problem would be that they were seated before the Board Policy allowed. BUT they had not filed their SEIs, and they were not eligible to take the oath under State law.

McKie and Holmes have been eligible to take the oath of office since December 4, 2018; yet they have not. They have been allowed to attend confidential Executive Sessions and to vote on student and District matters. They have been paid. They have probably been reimbursed for expenses. Who pays for their membership in the South Carolina School Boards Association?

McKie, while not yet a legitimate member of the board, serves as a Director of the SCSBA. The SCSBA is aware of the challenge to her position on the Richland 2 School Board; yet it allows her to serve.