MONCKS CORNER - Former Berkeley County School Board member Terry Hardesty put the current board on notice Tuesday that he will file a formal complaint with the state Attorney General's office against individual board members if the district continues to pay legal fees for three employees under a state investigation.
The board does not respond to public comments, but after the meeting, Board Chairman Kent Murray said he had no comment on Hardesty's statement.
District Communications Director Amy Kovach was indicted on Feb. 11 on a count of "Violation of Ethics Act: Use of Public Funds to Influence the Outcome of an Election," in the ongoing investigation into alleged ethics violations during the 2012 Yes 4 Schools campaign, during which voters approved $198 million to build and renovate schools.
Superintendent Rodney Thompson and Deputy Superintendent Archie Franchini are also under investigation, which so far has cost the district more than $130,000, more than half of which has been paid to independent legal representation for the employees.
Hardesty, who served on the board from 2006-2010, also said he resented comments from Hanahan principal Ric Raycroft and former Berkeley County Teacher of the Year Michael Petry at the Feb. 25 board meeting.
"It appeared to me that comments by district staff... were fully orchestrated by the administration," Hardesty said. "The payment of attorneys' fees to people under indictment along with the orchestrated effort to blame the public for actions the employees took, leads one to believe someone is trying to buy silence."
The school board has maintained that it is paying the fees for the employees because it believes the employees were acting in good faith.
"Even your own law firm's own principle attorney, Mr. Ken Childs, is on record stating that attorney's fees paid by a district should end as soon as someone is indicted," Hardesty said, referring to a March 10 story about a federal investigation into Jasper County School District in the Island Packet newspaper. According to that story, Childs said "if any of those employees are indicted, the district is not obligated to provide them counsel."
Hardesty also sued board chairman Kent Murray last year after he was prevented from talking about the investigation during public comments at a board meeting. That suit was settled for $65,000.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.
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