Berkeley County Drama Ramps Up Again

More shenanigans, more public pressure …

When we last checked in on local government in Berkeley county, South Carolina, a community group had sprung up with the goal of challenging ongoing corruption within the local school district.

The group – “Fighting Berkeley Corruption” – has adopted a Dukes of Hazzard motif in its messages, invoking the early 1980s action-comedy based in rural Georgia and starring the late Sorrell Booke as Boss Hogg. A prototypical rural bureaucratic villain, Hogg’s legacy lives on in literally hundreds of municipal and county governments across the Palmetto State – where public service long ago gave way to what amounts to “smash and grab” thievery.

Earlier this summer, this grassroots group blanketed Berkeley county with leaflets slamming the “Dukes of Berkeley.” More recently, the group has produced a video questioning exorbitant legal fees paid by district leaders to some politically connected insiders.

The video also invoked the Dukes theme – specifically taking aim at $85,000 worth of legal fees doled out in June 2019 just before district officials forced Berkeley county parents to pay for school supplies for their children.

“Eighty-five thousand dollars,” the video’s Hazzard-esque narrator noted. “Now that’s a lot of pencils.”

Indeed it is. In fact, we did the math.

Assuming the going rate for a No. 2 Dixon Ticonderoga soft lead pencil is approximately $0.18, we are looking at a grand total of 456,989 pencils – or thirteen pencils apiece for the 35,000 children currently enrolled in Berkeley county’s government-run schools.

(Click to view)

(Via: Getty Images)

What is driving this local pushback against Berkeley county’s school board? In late May of this year, our news outlet published the first of several reports related to Berkeley county and its new educrat “leaders,” many of whom appear to be opportunistically exploiting a recent scandal for their own financial advantage.

For those of you unfamiliar with this saga, Berkeley’s former chief financial officer – Brantley Thomas – was recently sentenced to more than sixteen years in federal and state prison for embezzling millions of dollars from the district over several years.

The school district’s attorney – Berkeley county councilman Josh Whitley – has been leading efforts to recoup some of this money (efforts we support, incidentally).

The problem? Whitley is pocketing huge sums for his trouble – more than half a million dollars from December 2016 through the spring of this year. In June 2019 alone, Whitley’s law firm – Smyth Whitley – billed district taxpayers more than $50,000.

Additionally, Whitley has come under fire for an alleged quid pro quo related to the district’s decision to hire his law firm – and is also facing withering criticism for trying to stonewall those seeking information about his activities.

Not surprisingly, these actions have raised numerous red flags.

“(We) are very concerned that in attempting to recover from one fleecing Berkeley County taxpayers may be subjecting themselves to another,” we wrote recently.

(Click to view)

(Via: Berkeley County School District)

Earlier this year, Whitley (above) sent a local attorney a response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demanding $46,000 to turn over several public documents the lawyer was seeking.

We ripped Whitley for this stonewalling, and called upon the school district to “immediately disclose the information that has been requested under FOIA.”

“The longer they wait to do so, the more obvious it becomes that they have something to hide,” we added.

This month, additional questions have been raised about Berkeley’s leaders and their lack of transparency following a recent board meeting that allegedly featured multiple location notifications. At this meeting, board members approved a six-figure contract with a company to administer random drug tests on teachers, bus drivers and other district staff.

Is there anything to warrant the administration of these random tests?

No … not unless you count two recent allegations of public drunkenness, behavior which obviously would not show up on a random drug test.

What is the real reason for this contract?

We do not know … but this is one of the many issues “Fighting Berkeley Corruption” is digging into in the hopes of getting some answers.

Stay tuned … we will keep an eye on this saga as it continues to unfold. We would also encourage citizens in other South Carolina counties to collaborate on similar campaigns in the hopes of holding their local officials accountable.

Clearly they cannot be trusted to do it on their own …



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Banner: Berkeley County School District

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