Kennedy to comply with attorney general’s letter on school board meetings

Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 4:21 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2022 at 6:23 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District’s superintendent will comply with the state’s attorney general’s request for an explanation of potential Freedom of Information Act violations.

The potential violations stem from Charleston County School Board meetings on July 18.

“With respect to the allegation against the District, parents have alleged that the District has repeatedly violated S.C. Code 30-4-80 by failing to provide notice of agenda items for the meetings,” Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a letter to the school district. “In providing the requested response to my Office, I ask that you provide a general description of the District’s efforts to comply with FOIA.”

The letter requests the district to provide copies of all versions of the agendas and minutes for both the Committee of the Whole and regular board meetings that were held back to back on the same day.

“We received the letter yesterday,” Superintendent Don Kennedy said on Wednesday. “I immediately assigned a couple of staff members to take a look, read it, and make sure we respond. In fact, we have 30 days to respond. We certainly will comply.”

It is unclear what enforcement action could be taken. Wilson’s letter says his office does not have the resources to enforce public meetings laws but said they could take action against public bodies that “flout their duties under FOIA.”

However, Wilson does suggest private citizens or parents could take the district to court. Elizabeth Moffly, a former district board member who is now running for election again, says the attorney general’s investigation is a long time coming.

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“I think it’s about time,” Moffly said. “I was surprised because the AG doesn’t typically respond to unelected officials. I found it fascinating that he referenced parents, that he received many complaints from parents and he acknowledged those complaints. I am glad to see it. . . because it [FOIA violations] is something that is rampant running across the State of South Carolina”

Parent and school board candidate Ed Kelley says we have to let the process play out and allow the district to respond before jumping to conclusions. However, he says just having an investigation opened is a win for parents.

“I really appreciate Mr. Wilson stepping into referee because often, as a parent, it feels like whatever the government does there’s nothing I can do,” Kelley said, referring to the district. “It really made me feel like I had an advocate. Like there was someone who represents the little people.”

Kelley says after the investigation wraps up, he and a group of other parents would consider filing a lawsuit if Wilson finds the district violated the law.

Wilson’s office would not comment on potential actions that could be taken beyond what was listed in the official letter. The letter suggests having the board re-vote on items that may have violated FOIA.