There’s a lot at stake in the Richland County School District One election this year with 10 candidates vying for four positions in the large Midlands school district been recently rocked by controversy and accusations of corruption.
The drama in this year’s election hit a peak last week when a mysterious political mailer was sent to a number of constituents in the Lower Richland area.
The flyer — which appeared to be a democratic endorsement for three school board candidates, as well as others — was marked with a South Carolina Democratic Party (SCDP) return address and postal code.
SCDP officials denied sending the mysterious mailer and said they’ve asked the post office to investigate.
“Every piece of political mail authorized by the South Carolina Democratic Party is reviewed by two individuals and final approval is granted by myself,” SCDP said in a statement. “The mail piece in question was not approved by any person in our political mail approval process.
Richland One parents who spoke with FITSNews said the flyer was strange for several reasons. For starters, school board seats are non-partisan positions, so it would be unethical for SCDP to get involved and promote their campaigns.
The mysterious mailer marked with the words “get in good trouble, vote” appeared to endorse two of the six at-large candidates — Raquel Thomas and Angela Clyburn — and seat 2 Commissioner Cheryl Harris. The flyer made it look like Thomas and Clyburn were incumbents and not candidates.
Clyburn and Thomas both publicly denied having knowledge of the flyer before it was sent out. It’s also important to note that Clyburn is listed as the political director of SCDP.
Harris, who has campaigned alongside Clyburn, never made a public statement about the flyer.
SCDP Director Jay Parmley told WIS that the mailer was clearly evidence of a federal crime.
But considering someone used SCDP’s bulk access code… one would think the crime would be fairly easy to solve with a paper trail.
Nevertheless, whoever did this could go to federal prison — all for a Richland One school board election? It’s concerning for some parents we spoke with.
“When a school board race becomes this bloody and folks are willing to go to prison for this… It makes me think there is a lot more money at stake than the small stipend board members are allocated,” a former Richland One teacher told FITSNews. “Something is amuck, what are people trying to hide?”
The mysterious mailer was one of many dramatic events swirling around the Richland One school board election.
The drama started heating up in early October when a former Richland One teacher of the year called Jacquelyn Hurston and her supporters “hoes.” Another comment on the post threatened violence against Hurston, with someone saying they could “lay hands on her.” Hurston is up against chairman Jamie Devine for the district 2 seat, which is in the downtown Columbia, South Carolina area.
In response to these hateful social media posts, a Hurston supporter sent out an email to her personal contacts accusing Devine and his crew of supporters of behaving like characters on Monsters Inc. and saying it was time to flip the Richland One school board.
Devine did not comment publicly on the the “ho” comment aimed at his opponent, but issued a statement about the Monster’s Inc. email. He said he “challenged his opponent to run a positive campaign” and he plans to keep that pledge “even though his opponent’s agents chose not to.”
Hurston also issued a statement about the Monsters Inc. email. She apologized, but said the comments were made without her consent or knowledge.
Raquel Thomas jumped into the drama and posted a tearful Facebook video about the Monsters Inc. email. Several parents who spoke with FITSNews said they thought Thomas was defending Devine in the video and wondered why she didn’t mention anything about the “ho” comment.
“I was going to support Ms. Thomas, but when she made the video protecting Mr. Devine, I was done,” a Richland One parent said. “We don’t need school board members who are trying to boost themselves to the next level.”
Thomas has stated on social media that she has been “bullied” in this race.
Around this same time, Jamie Devine’s wife, Columbia councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine posted on Facebook — briefly — accusing Hurston and her supporters of stealing a Devine sign and replacing it with a Hurston sign in their yard. She deleted the post, but our sources sent us a screenshot (below).
The Devines have been in hot water with a lot of Richland One constituents after the South Carolina State Ethics Commission (SCSEC) fined Richland County School District One chairman Jamie Devine $1,000 for four violations — and taxpayers ended up with a $14,000 legal bill.
The agency fined Devine — who is up for re-election this November — for voting on an EngenuitySC contract while his wife served as a volunteer board member.
Parents in the district who spoke to FITSNews said they hope this year’s election can lead to positive change for Richland One — and less controversy.
Here are some links to previous coverage of the Richland One school district:
- Richland One Special Needs Student Assaulted, Harassed And Bullied, Lawsuit Says
- 5-Year-Old Richland One Student Frequently Sexually Assaulted On School Bus, Lawsuit Says
- Richland One Teacher Accused Of Snorting Drugs In Front Of Class Gets License Revoked
- Teen Who Was Stabbed Multiple Times At School Sues Richland One
- Richland One parents outraged Over ‘Choose To Be A Slave Or Slave Owner’ E-Learning Assignment
- Richland County SC Corruption: Calls For Investigation Ramp Up
- Richland One Chairman On Social Justice: Some Will Get ‘Caught In The Crossfire’
- Richland One Chairman Fined For Voting On $550,000 Contract Connected To Wife
- SC School District Accused Of Lavish Spending Recorded $20K Loss On Tax-Funded Black-Tie Event
We will continue to cover this election closely. Stay tuned…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR..
Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an investigative journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Mandy also hosts the Murdaugh Murders podcast. Want to contact Mandy? Send your tips to [email protected].
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