In the two months since the state Attorney General’s Office asked for an investigation into Berkeley County School District, the employees who are the targets of the inquiry — including Superintendent Rodney Thompson — have continued to work.
Now, some in the county are questioning why.
“I don’t get it,” said Terry Hardesty, a school board member from 2006-10. “As a former board member, it was pretty much our general policy to suspend anyone who was under investigation.”
The district typically errs on the side of caution when it comes to removing employees.
At the center of the current investigation by the State Ethics Commission and the State Law Enforcement Division are Thompson, Assistant Superintendent Archie Franchini and Communications Director Amy Kovach.
Daniel Island lawyer Josh Whitley raised questions about whether the district used its own resources to promote the school improvement bond campaign, the Yes 4 Schools campaign, which asked voters to approve $198 million to build five new schools and renovate 29 others.
It is against state law for public officers or employees to “authorize the use of public funds, property, or time to influence the outcome of an election.”
The district maintains that the campaign was run by volunteers. The board on March 12 unanimously agreed “to provide reasonable and customary legal fees and expenses” for the employees to hire independent legal counsel.
Hardesty and others also have questioned that. “I’m curious as to how much money they’re spending on legal fees,” he said. “That’s money that should be spent educating children.”
District employees have declined to comment since news of the investigation broke. On Monday, Kovach referred all questions regarding the investigation to the district’s lawyers, Childs & Halligan.
Kathryn Long Mahoney of Childs & Halligan referred to the district’s March 12 statement. She reiterated that “The Board has reason to believe that its employees’ acts or omissions in connection with the school improvement referendum were in good faith in the scope of their employment.”
She was in a meeting Monday afternoon and unavailable for additional comment.
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