Tax leins ignored by R2 trustees

COLUMBIA – A Richland Two school board trustee facing more than $49,000 in liens over unpaid income taxes will lead the body that determines numerous fiscal matters, including the district’s $301.1 million annual budget.

Shadd

On June 30, the board voted 6-1 to appoint James Shadd as chairman. Shadd takes over for James Manning, who’s served in the role for the past year.

Board member Lindsay Agostini voted to oppose. She later released a prepared statement explaining her vote.

“In light of the negative media attention the district and board received last year as it related to former board chair Ms. McKie’s inability to file State Ethics Commission statements and reports on time, in addition to her accumulated outstanding fines, my vote to not support Mr. Shadd for board chair was based on principle and my hope to avoid more negative attention for the district,” the statement says. “I was made aware of Mr. Shadd’s unpaid tax liens and was able to confirm that with the Department of Revenue website. That coupled with his tardy filings with the SC Ethics Commission were reasons for my ‘no’ vote.”

Holmes

Manning declined to comment when contacted earlier in June, prior to the board meeting.

“I’m grateful to my colleagues to have selected me to serve as chair for this year,” Shadd said. “I’m looking forward to working with all of my colleagues on this board to push Richland 2 forward.”

The board also appointed Teresa Holmes as vice-chair and Cheryl Caution-Parker as Secretary.

Shadd’s appointment comes in spite of racking up nine liens totaling $57,086.33, according to the S.C. Department of Revenue online database.

Caution-Parker

Only three liens totaling $7,107 have been satisfied, leaving $49,979.33 still owed.

As of July 2, the remaining six liens had not been satisfied, including a lien totaling $12,043.06 added just three months ago.

Each of the liens results from unpaid income taxes, the Department of Revenue registry shows.

Shadd previously told The Voice he didn’t think his personal tax troubles would impair his ability to serve effectively as a board member.

“I am one of a seven-member board that votes on the budget, absolutely,” Shadd told The Voice. “But like I said, this is a personal matter which we are handling. I don’t see a conflict in making decisions on behalf of our students, our teachers, and our staff with regard to that.”

At the June 30 board meeting, none of the board trustees mentioned Shadd’s tax troubles.

Instead, most lauded the appointees, wishing them well in their new roles.

Trustee Dr. Monica Elkins-Johnson raised generic concerns over board member transparency and interpersonal relations, stating that past officers have shown favoritism toward some board members.

“I hope moving forward that we include everyone, that when we’re having these discussions on who we want to be chair, vice-chair and secretary, we’ll have everybody at the table, not just a select few that we like,” she said.

In other business, the board voted 6-1 to give Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis an overall “distinguished” rating on his annual evaluation and to extend his contract another year to 2024.

Agostini, who voted in opposition, said while Davis has done well managing the district during the coronavirus pandemic, she took issue with his professionalism.

“I need to express my concerns with Dr. Davis’ lack of equitable treatment of board members,” Agostini said. “Since my resignation as board secretary in May of 2019, Dr. Davis has treated my communications with him as a board member in an inequitable and unprofessional manner.”

Other board members felt differently, showering Davis with gushing praise later in the meeting.

“You always handle yourself with grace and style and intelligence,” Holmes said.

Caution-Parker noted that Davis is the district’s first African-American superintendent.

“You are the first African American superintendent we have ever had in this district which poses a separate set of issues which I will not go into at this time,” Caution-Parker said. “I appreciate your tenacity to do what is right for the children—all children—of this district.

“Your professionalism, your honesty, your transparency, and your ability to see the big picture and the many attributes of your leadership are just outstanding to say the least,” Caution-Parker continued.

The board also voted to reinstate public participation at future meetings.

In March, the board voted to suspend policy BEDH, which outlines policies for public comments during board meetings. The board voted to suspend the policy as it transitioned from in-person meetings to conducting district business on the Zoom conferencing app to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

Agostini said she had requested to reinstate public comments for the June 30 meeting, but Manning said that request should have been made during the last meeting and not via email.

Agostini said she thought the public should have an opportunity to comment on board business, citing a detailed report the board received June 30 regarding the status of ongoing capital projects that didn’t allow for public comments.

The measure to reinstate public input starting at the next meeting passed unanimously.