SC attorney general issues opinion on Berkeley Co. School Board actions

Berkeley County taxpayers voted last year to bring a K-8 school to Nexton and an elementary school to the Jedburg area.
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 5:33 PM EST
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BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson released a formal legal opinion in response to a Berkeley County School Board request about decisions involving two planned schools funded by the penny sales tax.

Board Member-At-Large David Barrow called it “unlawful” for the board to change the proposed K-8 school in Nexton to a middle school and move a proposed elementary school from the Jedburg area to Black Tom Road after it those details were part of the penny sales tax plan already voted on. The school board requested a legal opinion from Wilson’s office on the issue.

Wilson’s opinion breaks down what was given on the penny sales tax ballot and what became reality.

In reference to the now-proposed middle school in Nexton, the opinion states, “...Whether or not the construction of a middle school is within the scope of the education improvement project listed in the resolution is a question of fact, which can only be determined by a court... However, we believe a court could find the description provided in the resolution and approved by the voters remains sufficient to inform the voters as to the intended use of revenue generated from the tax.”

The opinion states in conclusion, “...We believe a court could find the District is simply decreasing the scale of the project approved by the voters and such a modification is within the District’s discretion. ... Nonetheless, as we stated above, determining whether this modification satisfies the requirements of the Act is a factual determination, which only a court may decide with finality.”

In the board’s Nov. 6 meeting, Board Chair Mac McQuillin called on the district’s legal counsel, Brandon Gaskins and Bret Galloway, to address all comments made by Barrow one by one, including addressing Barrow’s allegation that “some sinister stuff is going on” behind the scenes.

“These are serious allegations that, in my opinion, illegitimately attacked the integrity of the administration and risk confusing the public based on inaccurate information,” McQuillin said.

Gaskins said he has independently researched the matter and confided in different state lawyers, including the state’s attorney general. He also addressed claims Barrow made about his “lack of experience,” saying all debates should be based on the strength of his arguments and not misconceptions on experience.

McQuillin said that nobody on this board wants to do anything illegal.

Barrow countered with several questions, adding, “If you’re watching at home, don’t be surprised. It’s just another way to discredit me.”