S.C. State board to try to elect chief

metro -- Dr. John H. Corbitt, South Carolina State Board of Trustees

South Carolina State University’s board has held two elections for the position of chairman in the past month, but neither was legal under the board’s bylaws, said acting chairman John Corbitt.

Corbitt has called a teleconference meeting for Tuesday so the board again can try to elect a leader. But it remains unclear if all of the trustees will attend.

Corbitt said he was told by Charleston attorney Peter Wilborn, the board’s lawyer, that the last two elections were illegal under the board’s bylaws.

At the board’s Sept. 27 election, trustee Walter Tobin won in a three-way race for chairman. Tobin received five votes, Patricia Lott received four and Corbitt received two.

The bylaws require the chairman to land a minimum of six votes, which represents a majority of the 11 seated members, Corbitt said. The six board members who did not vote for Tobin later realized the election was not legal, and called for another vote on Oct. 17, he said.

Lott won the chairman’s seat in that election in a 6-0 vote. The five members who supported Tobin did not attend the meeting.

Corbitt said the six board members later learned that election also was not legal under the board’s bylaws because members were not given a five-day notice before it was held.

So he called for the Tuesday election to finally bring the matter to a close.

Tobin said Friday that he is not sure if he would attend the meeting Tuesday because he doesn’t think it is a legally called meeting.

He thinks he is the current chairman because he was elected on Sept. 27, and the gavel was passed to him with no objections from other board members. He thinks the bylaws require five board members to write to him to ask him to call a meeting for another election, he said.

“They pick and choose the bylaws they want to follow,” he said of some other trustees.

Lott said she plans to dial in to the meeting Tuesday, and to take part in the election.

Several members of the General Assembly last year proposed changes to the composition of the university’s board of trustees because they thought the body was unable to properly function, but none of the proposals passed.

It remains unclear if legislators will consider such matters in the upcoming session.