Altered bond doc slips past R2 board

COLUMBIA – When the Richland Two school board trustees’ former secretary declined to sign documents asserting that Board Chairwoman Amelia McKie is legally allowed to serve on the board, two trustees say the board was not notified the documents were modified to include phrasing dismissive of McKie’s ethics controversy.

“I was not aware of the addition of the extra line in the bond documents,” trustee James Manning said. “I really don’t have a response to the legitimacy [issue]. I’m spending all my research looking into why that [the paragraph] is there and why we need it, so I’ll be looking at that.”

Lindsay Agostini, the former board secretary, said her attorney advised her not to sign the documents. She thinks the document revisions should have been brought to the board’s attention.

“We weren’t briefed as a board,” she said. “I do believe, with the modifications, I think it would’ve been important for the board to be briefed, either individually or as a group.”

District Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis couldn’t be reached for comment.

At issue are clauses added to documents relating to the district’s $468.4 million building program. Richland Two voters recently approved a bond referendum that raises taxes to finance construction.

Added to the bond documents was the following statement:

“The School District is aware that members of the public have called for the resignation of the current Board Chair because of fines owed by the Board Chair to the South Carolina State Ethics Commission because the Board Chair did not have on file a current Statement of Economic Interest prior to being sworn in to a second term as a member of the Board,” the document states.

“The School District is not aware of any litigation, regulatory effort, or official proceeding challenging the Board Chair’s right and title to serve as a Board member of Board Chair,” the document continues.

Agostini repeated her call for McKie to step down as chair, but hasn’t called for McKie’s outright resignation as some members of the public have.

Manning said he doesn’t question McKie’s eligibility to serve.

“Our legal counsel has told us based on the current law and previous attorney general opinions, the board really has no purview over whether Ms. McKie is a legitimate board member or not,” he said. “That is beyond board control.”

Manning thinks state law should more clearly state whether public officials who fail to file ethics forms are legally allowed to serve.

Section 8-13-1110 of state law says no public official “may take the oath of office or enter upon his official responsibilities” unless a Statement of Economics Interest form is filed.

Section 8-13-1520 further states that ethics law violations are misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in prison, a $5,000 fine or both.