R2 Chair McKie’s ‘lost’ ethics filings questioned

BLYTHEWOOD – Nearly a month after the November elections, two Richland 2 school board members still had not filed ethics disclosure forms required by state law, according to the South Carolina Ethics Commission.

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, the ethics commission’s online Statements of Economic Interest database listed all of the school board candidates who filed except for two notables – new board member Teresa Jones Holmes and board chairwoman Amelia McKie.

Holmes couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

McKie expressed shock that her name wasn’t listed online for public viewing.

“I’ll try to find out where the disconnect was,” McKie said during a 4:30 p.m. phone interview. “There shouldn’t have been a problem. Certainly I want to get to the bottom of whatever the disconnect is.”

McKie contacted The Voice about an hour later to say that the ethics commission had her forms, saying they had been submitted weeks ago.

The ethics commission website listed McKie’s time of filing at 5:26 p.m. Tuesday. Holmes filed at 4:50 p.m., after The Voice telephoned her at 1:07 p.m.

At 11:02 a.m. Tuesday, an unidentified ethics commission representative said via email that the agency’s website was “up to date and accurate” as of that time.

The spokesperson declined further comment.

“The statements were filed on the date and time shown on the website,” the ethics commission said via email Wednesday morning. “I am aware of no glitch in the application that would cause a document to become ‘lost’ in the system.”

The ethics commission website says all candidates must electronically file Statements of Economic Interests forms, and that they’re posted online immediately.“Upon filing, the information is immediately available to the public through public reporting,” the website states.

The apparently late filings come months after the Richland 2 board voted to modify the procurement code.

In July, the board voted to strike several provisions from the code, including one that prohibited the district from doing business with board members.

At the time of the vote, Dr. Harry Miley, the district’s chief financial officer, said via email that the prohibition already exists elsewhere in the board’s policy.

“We are undertaking a comprehensive review and update of all of our policies with particular attention to trying to eliminate places where the same topic is addressed in multiple policies,” Miley said. “We are also undertaking a review of our procurement code to see if revisions are needed.”

McKie’s form lists $9,600 in personal income from her position on the school board. She receives additional income from consulting, but those amounts are not included on the online forms.

NextEra also purchased $15,000 in consulting services from McKie, according to ethics documents.

Holmes reported $83,000 in personal income from a position with the Fairfield County School District, documents show.

Neither McKie nor Holmes listed any property interests, business interests, gifts or government contracts, according to the forms.

Nearly all of the other seven school board candidates filed their economic interest forms by August, according to state ethics records.

One candidate, a challenger and not an incumbent, filed his in October, records show.

State law requires all elected officials to file Statements of Economic Interest and campaign contribution reports.

Forms document a candidate’s income sources, including any sources doing business with the government agency the elected office oversees.

High-ranking appointed officials, such as city administrators, superintendents and chief financial officers, must also file, according to the ethics commission website.

Candidates who fail to file, or who file late, face a variety of civil and criminal penalties.

Civil penalties begin at $100 for reports not filed within five days after the deadline. Fine amounts increase by $10 per calendar day for the first 10 days after notice is provided by certified or registered mail.

Daily fines increase to $100 for every day the form isn’t filed, with total fines capping at $5,000.

If forms still aren’t filed, failing to file becomes a criminal violation, with violators facing additional fines and possible prison time.

In addition, state law prohibits public officials who haven’t filed Statements of Economic Interest from being sworn in.

“No public official, regardless of compensation, and no public member or public employee as designated in subsection (B) may take the oath of office or enter upon his official responsibilities unless he has filed a statement of economic interests in accordance with the provisions of this chapter with the appropriate supervisory office,” the law states.

This requirement still exists even if a public official has no economic interests to disclose.

“He shall nevertheless file a statement of inactivity to that effect with the appropriate supervisory office,” the statute states.