CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The Charleston County School District Board of Trustees’ controversial decision to place Superintendent Dr. Eric Gallien on paid administrative leave is grabbing the attention of state and local leaders.
“I called the ethics commission, state ethics commission, who directed me to the AG, who directed me to the IG, and the IG said, ‘we need to have authority to do this inquiry from the governor,’” South Carolina State Representative Joseph Bustos (R) told News 2 on Tuesday.
Rep. Bustos, who also serves as the Chairman of the Charleston County Legislative Delegation, sent an email to Governor Henry McMaster on Sunday requesting an inquiry by the Inspector General.
In the email, Rep. Bustos claims some of the board members might have met privately before the last meeting. He also said the board members apparently went into executive session without having it on the agenda.
“I just want them to look at it and tell us what, if anything, was done incorrectly so that we can, I can make recommendations to the state legislator on how things should be changed if they need changing. If they don’t, then we’re fine,” Rep. Bustos said.
While addressing reporters on Tuesday, Governor McMaster was asked about the CCSD situation, where he advised the district to follow the law.
“The Freedom of information Act is very clear. Everybody ought to follow the law. When they’re asked questions that fall within the ambit of the Freedom of Information Act, they ought to give the information out and give it out very quickly. And it does not look to me like the school board has done that,” said the governor.
He went on to say, “if it gets worse, then I think the law would allow me to ask Inspector General to take a look, but I don’t think we’re at that point yet.”
Meanwhile, back in Charleston, Mayor John Tecklenburg released a statement on Tuesday that read:
“Late yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with Chairwoman Pam McKinney, and to express my concerns about several recent and seemingly capricious school board actions, including the suspension of Superintendent Eric Gallien, the refusal to appoint Michelle Simmons as chief academic officer, and the dismissal of members of the district’s Health Advisory Committee. Taken together, these actions, and the lack of basic transparency surrounding them, have created a crisis of confidence among our principals, teachers, parents, taxpayers and state legislators, at least two of whom have now called for formal investigations on a bipartisan basis.
“That’s why, today, as both the mayor and a resident of the city of Charleston, I’m respectfully calling on the CCSD Board of Trustees to schedule an immediate public meeting where they can explain and debate these actions in open session and begin working together to restore confidence in the board and its decision-making.
“More than 220 years ago, when Charleston and the nation were still young, President George Washington warned in his farewell address of the dangers of factions, and of the unique threat they represent to our form of government. In recent days, we have seen those dangers play out on our county school board. I believe it’s time for everyone involved to step back, remember that we serve all our citizens, and begin mending the broken bonds of trust between our school board and the citizens, parents and students it serves.”
News 2 reached out to the five school board members who voted in favor of placing Dr. Gallien on leave. CCSD Board Chairwoman Pam McKinney released a statement on Tuesday on behalf of the five. They addressed the concerns raised by the community on the superintendent move, as well as the decisions not to hire Michelle Simmons as Chief Academic Officer and to remove several members of the Health Advisory Committee. You can read the full statement here.
South Carolina State Representative Wendell Gilliard requested an investigation this week from the Attorney General’s Office, while also calling out the group, Moms for Liberty. He’s blaming the decisions on something deeper.
“Everybody like ‘oh he just always want to talk about race.’ If it’s showing its ugly head, we need to challenge it and we need to come up with solutions. That’s why I wrote the letter,” said Rep. Gilliard (D).
Multiple lawmakers attended a community meeting on Monday night where the changes in the district were discussed.