Judgement filed against R2’s McKie

COLUMBIA – On July 10, 2019 the South Carolina Ethics Commission filed a $51,750 Judgment in Richland County Common Pleas Court against the immediately previous Richland Two School Board Chairwoman Amelia McKie.

This Judgment is to collect the $51,750 in fines and fees that McKie owes the Ethics Commission under Decision & Order No. 2017-023, which was issued on July 3, 2019.

That Decision was based on McKie’s failure to file numerous required documents between 2015 and 2018, including Campaign Disclosure Reports and Statements of Economic Interests Reports.

A 2018 Decision & Order informed McKie that, if she didn’t make payments as scheduled on Dec. 31, 2018, and later on June 30, 2019, the Judgment would be entered.

Another Deadline Passes

In addition, another deadline has passed with McKie failing to publicly declare campaign contributions and expenditures, a procedure required by state law.

McKie filed her quarterly campaign disclosure report on July 18, eight days after the July 10 deadline, the S.C. Ethics Commission said.

As of 12:13 p.m. July 18, McKie had not filed the report. The Voice left a message for McKie and within an hour, the Ethics Commission website said the report had been filed on July 18.

McKie said via email last week that she filed on time.

“My campaign disclosures were prepared in advance of July 10 and were ‘saved’ until the July 10th date,” McKie wrote. “The saved disclosure has been ‘filed.’ If a screen shot of the same would be helpful, please let me know. The [ethics commission] can attest to the same.”

Meghan Walker, executive director of the ethics commission, said McKie started the online application process on July 10, but didn’t complete it until Thursday [July 18].

“Ms. McKie saved her report on July 10. It was saved and not filed,” she said.

McKie also missed the April 10 quarterly deadline, not filing those documents until May 9, and not until after The Voice contacted her then.

Walker said McKie has paid a $100 fine for that violation.

Other Richland Two board members either filed their July 10 forms on time or have filed a final report, closing their accounts and negating the need to file, ethics records show.

In a related development, fellow trustee Teresa Holmes was recently fined for failing to file Statements of Economic Interest forms before taking the oath of office, according to documents obtained by The Voice.

Holmes paid a $100 fine to settle the matter, the June 21 order states.

Richland County resident Gus Philpott, who has spoken out against Richland Two ethics violations in past board meetings, filed the complaint in April.

Philpott also asked the commission to invalidate any votes Holmes took while in violation and to remove her from office. The agency declined to do so.

“The Act contains no provisions which would allow the Commission to invalidate a public official’s votes or remove him from office,” the order states.

In a 2008 opinion, the S.C. Attorney General’s Office opined that only school boards and boards of trustees can remove a member “for cause.”

The opinion contains a lengthy definition of “for cause.” In part, it says “cause is a flexible concept that relates to an employee’s qualifications and implicates the public interest.

“Neglect of duty, inefficiency, and the good faith abolition of a position for valid reasons are all legally sufficient causes for removal,” the order continues.

Philpott said he didn’t want to discuss the Holmes case. Regarding McKie, he said the former board chair should be sanctioned for her latest missed filing.

“The Ethics Commission should fine her,” Philpott said. “She’s not attending to her responsibilities.”

This is the 15th time since July 2015 that McKie has failed to file campaign disclosure reports on time. She only met the deadline once, filing her January 2019 statement Jan. 9, 2018, one day early, according to online ethics filings.

Ethics records also show that McKie went three years – from 2015 to 2018 – without filing Statements of Economic Interest forms. She did not file forms for those years until December 2018.

SEI forms must be submitted by March 30 every year. They list a candidate’s income sources and other positions they hold that may pose a potential conflict.

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

Richland Two trustees were sworn in Nov. 13, 2018, according to a Richland Two news release. Neither McKie nor Holmes filed file SEI forms until Dec. 4, 2018, ethics filings show.