Monday, December 6, 2021

Does Richland 2 have a REAL Ombudsman?

The following email was sent this morning to the Richland 2 Ombudsman, Kelli Johnson.

According to the Richland County (S.C.) website, 
"An Ombudsman is an impartial dispute-resolutioner, whose major function is to provide informal assistance to citizens and to assist citizens with county concerns and request for service.
  • Receives and investigates concerns and requests for service.
  • Develops or identifies a range of responsible options to resolve problems and facilitate discussion.
  • Helps citizens find alternative solutions and develop new ways to solve problems themselves."

In most organizations, the Ombudsman is a strong and independent authority, often reporting directly to the CEO. An ombudsman is an advocate for the person with the issue - the complainant, the employee, the customer, etc. An Ombudsman has clout.

What is the role of the Richland 2 Ombudsman? She reports to the superintendent. Can she go to him and say, "We have a real problem here. This is a legitimate complaint. We cannot just sweep this one under the rug."

What will his response be?

Here's the email sent this morning to Ms. Kelli Johnson. Copies were sent to the outside attorney for the school district, the Richland County Councilman for our district, the executive directors of the Richland County Election Commission and the S.C. Ethics Commission, Gov. McMaster, the S.C. Attorney General, the S.C. Superintendent of Education, the five legal school board trustees and the two trustees-elect, and the superintendent.

For the Ombudsman.

Dear Ms. Johnson:

The Richland School District Two school board has two participants who have been usurping public office for three years, and I seek your assistance in having them removed from office.

I have reviewed the services offered by the Ombudsman, and I am writing for your assistance.


  • Listen to clarify concerns to understand them thoroughly
  • Help community members identify and explore options for solutions
  • Provide information to help resolve concerns by researching Board policies as well as Administrative Rules
  • Coach and empower individuals on how to prepare conversations that lead to collaborative resolutions
  • Navigate individuals to the correct resources and people to address concerns
  • Foster effective communication
  • Track trends to help the district identify areas that could be improved

Significant dates:

11/6/18 Teresa Holmes and Amelia McKie were elected.
11/9/18 Richland County Election Commission certified the election.
11/13/18 The oath of office was administered to Holmes and McKie; they took office that night. However, on that date neither was eligible to take the oath of office.

11/14?/18 Notarized oath of office documents were transmitted to the S.C. Secretary of State (SCSOS). The SCSOS should be informed that false notarized documents were sent to it, because neither Holmes nor McKie was eligible to take the oath of office legally on Nov. 13, 2018.

11/16/18 School board member term-of-office began.
12/4/18 Holmes and McKie filed their Statements of Economic Interests Reports (SEI) with the S.C. Ethics Commission.

* Neither Holmes nor McKie was eligible to take the oath of office on 11/13/18, because they had not filed their SEIs.

* Holmes and McKie first became eligible to take the oath of office on 12/4/18.

* Neither Holmes nor McKie has taken the oath of office on or since 12/4/18.

I have raised this issue regularly with the School Board since February 2019. It is absolutely within the purview of the school board to address this issue.

Administration informed me one time only that it considers Holmes and McKie to be legal board members, but it has never provided an explanation for why S.C. Code of Laws Section 8-13-1110(A) does not apply. That law reads, in summary,

1. the elected person files the SEI (by filing the SEI, the elected person first becomes eligible to take the oath of office);
2. the elected person then takes the oath of office;
3. the elected person then enters upon official responsibilities.

The order is clear: 1-2-3.

However, Holmes and McKie followed this order: 2-3-1, and that is not in compliance with State law.

For three years the District has improperly paid monthly stipends to both Holmes and McKie and has paid or reimbursed expenses for both.

In view of the District's published services of the Ombudsman, will you please help me explore the options to remove Holmes and McKie from the board? 


Gus Philpott
Resident, Richland School District Two

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