So let’s get this straight: Charleston County School Board member Chris Collins is potentially getting ready to bring legal action ... against himself.
See, a few years back, Collins. who’s also a preacher, voted with a majority of the school board to give his own church a lease on an empty district building.
Then, in November, he voted to terminate the lease.
Now he’s lawyered up, and says the congregation doesn’t want to move out of the former Charlestowne Academy.
If Collins could decide on a position, he might make the ethics all-star team — because he’s already hit for the conflict-of-interest cycle.
Collins should realize it’s wrong to put his colleagues in this position. As Vice Chairman Craig Ascue says, this is a distraction that has nothing to do with improving schools.
He’s absolutely right.
Somebody needs to tell Chris Collins that his job is to solve problems in the district — not cause them.
John Jackson, the newly hired attorney for Collins’ Healing and Deliverance Church, says the decision to cancel the lease was rife with “political chicanery.”
Actually, that’s what happened when the church got the lease.
Board members, despite their misgivings, agreed to this bad idea in February 2010. Since then the church has been late on its rent at least three months running. It did not purchase the required insurance until reporter Diette Courrege Casey asked about it. And it used the building for parties and charter school board meetings, which wasn’t part of the deal.
And the church still hasn’t paid for using the building more often than it said it would.
But apparently they can come up with the money for a lawyer.
When the lease was signed, the deal was that either side could terminate it with 30 days’ notice. The school board gave the church seven months, which was very Christian.
If there are any politics at play here, it’s coming from the pews — or, more likely, the pulpit.
Pick a stage
The church wants a long-term lease and to be able to use the school more often.
Those prayers aren’t likely to be answered. Most board members oppose renewing the lease. Only Elizabeth Moffly is defending Collins. She says the district gives space to other nonprofit organizations, so why should Collins’ church be treated differently?
She has a point. It would be a better one if the church actually paid its bills, however.
Isn’t Thou Shalt Not Stiff Thy Landlord a commandment?
The church isn’t talking lawsuit yet, but threatened to look into legal issues if — as Jackson says — the board isn’t reasonable. That means it will cost taxpayers to defend against this nonsense.
So Collins could end up actually costing the district money over something most board members say is wrong.
“It’s a conflict of interest for us to be doing business with a board member,” says school board member Todd Garrett.
He’s right, and there are only two solutions: Either Collins drops this, or he steps down.
You know, to avoid the conflict of interest.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org
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