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Letter: FITSNews ‘False’ Implications In Richland One School District Story

The letter is in response to our story on Richland County parents questioning officials’ ‘lavish’ spending …

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RE: Lavish Richland One Spending

Dear News Director,

I am in receipt of your article “$100 Jackets For Richland 1 School Board Members ‘Symbolic’ Of Lavish District Spending, Parents Says” and I am compelled to respond.

I value the work LLE Construction Group, LLC has done in the community and we’ve worked very hard to achieve and maintain a great reputation. Like most contractors, I’ve had to bid on work. Nothing has been handed to me and there are no “Contract connections” as you noted. To imply that I received a contract due to knowing or being friends and colleagues with Richland One Board Chairman or member(s) or with Mayor Pro Tem Tameika Isaac Devine are false and an insult to my reputation. In addition, it is my responsibility to ensure our team at LLE Construction Group, LLC performs at a high standard to maintain a credential work history. With that said, I am appalled that this article implies my company contributed to the issues on the A.C. Flora High School Stadium project. We were on the Construction Management team for the Richland One Stadiums; however, the day-to-day activities of the A.C. Flora project was not our responsibility. Implying that my company had anything to do with this project not being constructed properly is false.

With my other business, Need-A-Lift Transportation Services, LLC, which I closed in June 2019, I bid on and won the contract to provide transportation for homeless and displaced students through the McKinney-Vento school district contract. We provided great service in the community, to include working with nonprofits and parents, and for our work and efforts, we received a Proclamation from the City of Columbia. The only connection is providing a much needed service in our community.

Further research would have revealed, I sit on several boards and committees, not just EngenuitySC, whose initiatives supports and benefits students and our youth in the community. Also, I did host an entrepreneurship camp for girls with Mayor Pro Tem Tameika Isaac Devine AND three other small business owners in the community. It was our goal to bring entrepreneurship and generational wealth awareness in the community. That’s a connection that benefits the community. 

As a woman and minority in construction, I already have challenges. To read this inaccurate article that has been shared with the community, makes my company look incompetent, as if we’ve contributed to any issues at A.C. Flora. Your article and parents comments have falsely implemented me and LLE Construction Group, LLC and these comments could impact our future work opportunities. Because of that, I am addressing you and FITSNews accordingly.

Had you consulted with me by contacting LLE Construction Group, LLC, since that’s the company your comments address, I may have spoken with you. I am requesting an apology and retraction to your article. I look forward to your response. Thank you. Have a great day! 

Lasenta Lewis-Ellis

President/CEO

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FROM THE NEWS DIRECTOR …

Lasenta,

Thank you for your response. As this news outlet continues to cover issues related to this school district, we look forward to incorporating your perspectives in our reporting. As stated in the report, we did attempt to contact you at one of your businesses.

As to the specific issues raised in your letter, I have to point out that your own website boasts of the “management” role it has played in multiple school district “construction and renovations of the stadiums projects” —including the controversial A.C. Flora project.

Again, that project is referenced by name on your website, under the “Accomplishments” tab. 

Further, our report said “It is not known what specifically LLE Construction Group’s role was with the field, aside from project management.” By doing so, we gave your company the benefit of the doubt regarding its specific involvement in this project. You can only distance yourself so far from an endeavor when your own corporate website claims credit for its management.

As for your other criticisms, your firm’s receipt of hundreds of thousands of tax dollars is an open invitation to scrutiny of your proximity to influential local leaders. You may not like this scrutiny — and it is certainly your right to object to it — but to conflate it with allegations of inaccurate reporting is a classic straw man fallacy.

Our news outlet leveled no such allegation against you, we merely offered our readers the facts regarding these contracts and those relationships —none of which are in dispute.

Thanks for reading.

Mandy Matney

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