R2 board names new officers

Manning

COLUMBIA – Richland Two’s board of trustees has new leadership.

James Manning is now chairman, taking over for Amelia McKie, who remains a voting member.

Teresa Holmes was named vice chairman and Cheryl Caution-Parker became secretary, according to votes taken at the June 25 meeting.

Manning and Caution-Parker were unanimously voted into their new positions. The board voted 4-1 to make Holmes vice chair, with McKie and Caution-Parker abstaining. James Shadd cast the lone dissenting vote.

Holmes

McKie had nominated Shadd for vice chair, but that vote failed 4-3, with McKie, Caution-Parker and Shadd voting in the minority. Shadd declined a separate nomination to serve as secretary.

Manning said he’s appreciative of the support the board displayed in nominating him as chairman. His goals include successfully managing the school’s building program, improving school safety and boosting student achievement.

“I want to continue to focus on those things, to make sure that we do the best we can,” he said.

Caution-Parker

One board issue that’s arisen lately is public participation at meetings. In recent months, some residents have complained that the former chair altered the order in which speakers registered to muffle public criticisms.

Manning said he plans to follow board policy.

“Public input, like everything else, is managed through our policies,” he said. “I do think that’s something we need to take a look at, but ultimately the board chair should not have any undue influence in that process.”

The board officer turnover comes at a controversial time for the Richland Two board, with one member owing nearly $51,000 in ethics fines and another facing a criminal disorderly conduct charge.

In July 2018, the S.C. Ethics Commission fined McKie $41,000 for various campaign violations.

The most current ethics commission’s debtor list available online, which is dated Jan. 3, 2019, still lists McKie’s fine at $41,000.

However, documents obtained by The Voice state that the fine increases to $50,750 if McKie misses certain deadlines.

Documents state that McKie was supposed to pay the first $20,000 by Dec. 31 and the remaining balance by June 30.

An Ethics Commission representative said via email Monday that there has been no change in McKie’s status.

Richland County resident Gus Philpott, a frequent critic of the board, said he’s looking forward to seeing positive changes with new board leadership at the helm.

However, it still doesn’t change his belief that McKie and Holmes should step down from the board.

Philpott maintains that McKie and Holmes aren’t legally allowed to serve because neither filed Statements of Economic interest forms until after taking the oath of office. State law prohibits elected officials from taking the oath when SEI forms haven’t been filed.

“They are, in my opinion, not legal board members,” Philpott said. “Teresa Holmes was nominated for the position of vice chair and was elected. My contention is since she is not a board member, she cannot serve as an officer.”

Asked about Philpott’s comments, McKie provided the following response:

“One of the most sacred aspects of our American democracy is that every citizen is entitled to his/her own opinion, regardless of the accuracy of the same. The day that ceases to be is the day we no longer embody a democracy.”

Holmes said she doesn’t plan to step down, and disputes that she’s not legally qualified to serve on the board.

“There is no reason that he should continue to say that,” Holmes said. “He knows that that’s not true.”

Elkins-Johnson is also facing legal difficulties.

In January, the Richland County Sheriff’s Office charged her with disorderly conduct following an altercation occurring after a board meeting.

According to a police report, the suspect shouted obscenities and threatened relatives of a state senator and the board chair.

The Richland County Public Index lists a tentative court date of July 22, though the case has been continued several times.