In a 6 to 4 vote, the Beaufort County Board of Education passed a new nepotism policy on Tuesday night. The Board has been working on the policy for nearly four months, ever since Superintendent Jeff Moss was accused of nepotism in September.
Not all board members and audience members were pleased with the final policy.
“It’s extremely weak, and it does nothing to protect the public from the superintendent, or any employee of the Beaufort County School District. That breaches the public trust,” Rebecca Bass, co-founder of Citizens Advocating Responsible Education (CARE) says.
“I think it’s very damaging, and I don’t understand why they don’t…this is not rocket science,” newly elected board member David Striebinger says.
Striebinger has not been sworn into office yet, as he was just elected on Tuesday in the District 2 Special Election.
Before the third and final reading of the policy in Tuesday’s meeting, the Board voted ‘no’ on a motion to table the policy vote until the new board member could participate. Striebinger and several of the audience had hoped for the opposite.
“It would have been a vote, and everybody up there knows that I was going to vote to have a stricter nepotism policy than they’re considering,” he says.
On school district employee conflicts of interest, the new policy states:
“The BCSD will assign employees so that one immediate family member does not have direct supervisory authority over another. For purposes of this Policy, “direct supervisory authority” will be defined as the ability to hire, evaluate, or recommend the termination of individuals an employee supervises.
Additionally, no members of the same immediate family, certified or support staff, will be hired to work in the same administrative unit or school building or under the same immediate supervisor without prior approval of the Superintendent. This procedure, however, will not affect the continued employment of personnel who are related to other staff members.
When an immediate family member of the Executive Leadership, the Facilities Planning and Construction Officer, or personnel in the Procurement and Contracting offices is offered employment with a current contracted service or construction vendor associated with BCSD and/or a company that has submitted a bid offer package to the BCSD, the matter shall be reported to the Superintendent immediately to determine if a conflict of interest exists.
In cases where an employee is required to take action or make a decision which affects him/herself or other individuals for which a conflict exists, the employee will take the necessary steps to remove him/herself from the potential conflict of interest.
The Superintendent, the Chief Financial Officer, and all other BCSD employees required by state law must file an annual statement of economic interest with the State Ethics Commission.”
In a previous meeting, the Board defined ‘immediate family’ to mean a spouse, parent, child, or sibling. On Tuesday, the Board defined “Executive Leadership” to mean the Superintendent and his senior staff.
Board member Evva Anderson made a motion to add to the policy that the Superintendent’s family members cannot work in the district. However, the motion was voted down in a 7 to 3 vote; those for it were Evva Anderson, JoAnn Orishak and Mary Cordray.
A motion was also made to delay the vote on the policy to a board work session, made by board member Joseph Dunkle. That motion failed in a 7 to 3 vote; those for it were Joseph Dunkle, JoAnn Orishak, and Michael Rivers.
JoAnn Orishak remarked at how she believes the policy a less stringent one than before.
In the end, the policy vote 6 to 4 which passed was opposed by Joseph Dunkle, JoAnn Orishak, Michael Rivers, and Evva Anderson.
Members of the citizen group CARE who were in attendance commented on their disappointment.
“I would love to get each one of them privately and say ‘Why are you doing this?’ because it doesn’t make sense,” Striebinger says.