BCSD under investigation, looks to hire attorneys - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

BCSD under investigation, looks to hire attorneys

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The Berkeley County School District is under investigation from a bond improvement referendum, voted on last November as "Yes 4 Schools" on the ballot.

According to the district, opponents of the referendum sought an investigation into the efforts of the district in connection to the referendum.

A News 2 investigation uncovered e-mails that document the use of school district personnel time and district equipment in the campaign to pass the referendum.

The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating for possible ethics violations.

In a March 12 meeting the school board voted to hire attorneys, stating, "After reviewing the requests of district employees during executive session that the district provide for independent legal counsel to appear and represent them."

The district refused to release names of the employees to be represented, citing a privacy policy.

"Based on the advice of the board's legal counsel, I move that we approve the requests to provide reasonable and customary legal fees and expenses under the circumstances," read Dr. Kent Murray in the March 12 meeting.

"Perhaps they should rethink what they're doing and shed a little light on the money being used and reasons for it," Former Attorney General Charlie Condon said.

According to South Carolina law, the district is obligated to defend employees in legal actions resulting from acts done or omitted in good faith in the course of their employment.

The district admitted no action has been taken yet but they said their legal counsel advises hiring attorneys for employees involved in the ethics investigation.

News 2 directly asked the Attorney General's office if that use of taxpayer money is considered a violation in addition to the accused violations under investigation.

The South Carolina Attorney General's opinion is, "a school district is without authority to pay a school board member's or an employee's expenses of representation in a criminal proceedings."

Former Attorney General Charlie Condon tells News 2, "If they've done nothing wrong and it's proper their actions under existing law, you really wonder why legal counsel should be paid for by Berkeley County School District and then on the other hand if they've clearly violated South Carolina law and have potentially committed criminal acts then the use of public money under South Carolina Attorney General opinion wouldn't be proper."

The district refused to comment on the investigation or hiring attorneys, only issuing this statement, "Because the district understands that it has been asked not to discuss the investigation, we will continue to honor that request so as not to interfere with the investigation."

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