HICKS COLUMN: Why board member was evicted from building
So the Charleston County School Board evicted one of its own this week.
Too bad they can't go all Survivor and vote each other off the board. Then the four-hour meetings would at least be interesting.
What happened was this: Board member Chris Collins has been renting space at the former Charlestowne Academy building on Rivers Avenue since February 2010, ostensibly as a meeting place for his church.
This has been a mild problem from the start. Collins has allowed the school to be used for birthday parties and charter school board meetings. At times, he's fallen months behind on the rather modest rent.
He's used the building for more than the 16 hours a month he was supposed to and, until The Post and Courier's Diette Courrege Casey asked, Collins didn't produce the proper insurance — which could have left the school district liable for anyone getting hurt while he was using it.
That's just not smart.
So the school board did exactly the right thing in politely showing Collins the door.
The question is: What took them so long?
A good deal?
Collins asked to use the building a couple of years ago, to give his Healing Ministries Baptist Church a home.
The district was against the idea from the start. They aren't in the rental business (which explains why no one thought to ask Collins for proof of insurance) and wiser heads realized it probably was a bad idea to go into business with a board member.
But the school board, in its infinite whatever, went ahead and allowed it. Some board members, speaking privately, admit now they shouldn't have gone along with it. They say it wasn't favoritism, however — they probably would have agreed to any reasonable offer from anyone off the street.
The arrangement brought in some money. They weren't using the building. It seemed like a good deal.
At the same time, none of them are real surprised things didn't work out.
Conflict of interest?
To his credit, even Collins voted in favor of terminating his own lease.
Now, he probably saw which way the wind was blowing. And had he fought this, it certainly would have more clearly brought up the flagrant conflict of interest here.
He shouldn't have voted on this at any point, but that's another column.
The board was more than fair, giving him six months to find a new place for his church to meet. But now they want him to adhere more closely to the terms of his lease, limiting his use of the building to the agreed-upon 16 hours a month.
Like anyone has time to monitor that.
Now that this is resolved, the district needs to make sure it doesn't happen again. We shouldn't have board members making deals with the district, whether it's to cater meetings, fix the playground at an elementary school or rent space.
The folks at 75 Calhoun have far more important things to do than making sure a board member is paying his rent or carrying insurance.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his blog at blog.postandcourier.com/brians-blog.