State board honors R2 board members

Change of Venue for Elkins-Johnson’s Day in Court

COLUMBIA – As Richland Two school leaders grapple with ethical and legal challenges, three of them are being feted with statewide awards and distinctions.

Board chair Amelia McKie, who’s facing nearly $52,000 in fines over previously unfiled ethics forms, has been elected Region 8 Director of the South Carolina School Boards Association (SCSBA).

McKie was elected at the association’s annual business meeting in December. Voting consisted of delegates from most of the state’s 81 school boards, according to a news release.

Region 8 includes Richland One and Richland Two school districts.
The meeting was held Dec. 7-9, several days after The Voice published a story that said McKie hadn’t filed required Statements of Economic Interest, or SEI, forms from 2015-2018.

Additionally, in July 2018, the S.C. Ethics Commission had already fined McKie $41,000 for failing to file multiple quarterly campaign disclosure reports. That fine increased to $51,750 on Jan. 1.

Several Richland Two parents and at least one school board member have called on McKie to either step down as chair or resign from the board altogether.

Monica Elkins-Johnson

Also receiving accolades in the wake of legal challenges is Monica Elkins-Johnson, board vice-chair.

At the Feb. 26 board meeting, she was recognized for achieving Level 6 board certification through the S.C. School Board Association Boardsmanship Institute, the highest level.

The institute “offers a year-round training curriculum focused on leadership skills for board members on state and national educational issues,” according to the group’s website.

The SCSBA awarded the Level 6 certification nearly a month after Elkins-Johnson was charged with disorderly conduct in relation to an altercation after the Jan. 22 board meeting, where tensions flared following a discussion of board member ethics.
A police report filed after the meeting states that Elkins-Johnson was cursing loudly and threatened the husband of board chairwoman Amelia McKie in the foyer of the Richland Two Institute for Technology.
A second report states that Elkins-Johnson shoved Erica Davis, state Sen. Mia McLeod’s sister, during the altercation.

Change of Venue

Pontiac Magistrate Andy Surles was originally assigned to preside over the  Elkins-Johnson case, but it has since been transferred to the Hopkins office and reassigned to Hopkins Magistrate Valerie Stroman.
A Richland County magistrate office representative told The Voice that Judge Surles requested the recusal, prompting the change of venue.
An exact reason for the transfer wasn’t provided, though one explanation would be to avoid a conflict of interest since one of the victims is Davis, sister of state Sen. Mia McLeod.
McLeod’s senate district includes Pontiac, and state senators play a significant role in selecting magistrates.
In South Carolina, governors appoint magistrates “upon the advice and consent of the Senate,” according to the S.C. Judicial Department website.

In addition to the disorderly conduct charge, Elkins-Johnson also didn’t file several quarterly campaign disclosure reports due in 2016 and 2017 until Dec. 27, 2018, ethics commission records state.

Reports due in April 2018 and October 2018 were also filed late, ethics records show.

Dr. Baron Davis

Though not as serious as the penalties McKie and Elkins-Johnson presently face, Dr. Davis paid a $200 fine to the ethics commission after self-reporting late filings, namely his Statements of Economic Interest, or SEI, forms.

Davis disclosed the ethics fine during the Feb. 12 board meeting.

Eight days later, at the 5th Annual Columbia Impact Awards, Davis received The Cathy Novinger Trailblazer Award, which “honors an individual who has shown exemplary leadership in his/her industry, advocates for business, and positively impacts our community” according to a news release.

“In Richland Two, we talk about the pursuit of premier being relentless and unflinching. Trailblazers dare to chart their own paths even against conventional wisdom. But through challenging ourselves we often discover our purpose,” Davis said in prepared remarks.