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Midlands Watch: Electoral Manipulation In Richland County School Board Race?

Why did local school board leaders try to keep the resignation of one of their colleagues a secret?

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While she has garnered national attention for her outstanding coverage of the ‘Murdaugh Murders‘ crime saga (and its attendant dramas), our news director Mandy Matney has been busy doing exemplary work exposing government malfeasance and corruption at the local and state levels in South Carolina.

For example, Matney has driven coverage of the latest rash of scandals at the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice (SCDJJ) – an agency which is in desperate need of new leadership.

She has also been working overtime to hold elected officials at one Midlands-area school district accountable for their actions …

In fact, Matney’s latest article on ethically challenged Richland county school district one has prompted allegations of attempted electoral manipulation involving the board’s scandal-scarred leadership – including former chairman Jamie Devine.

Devine is married to Tameika Isaac Devine, a city of Columbia, S.C. council member who is currently campaigning for mayor of the Palmetto State’s capital city.

That relationship has been a frequent source of scandal for the district, incidentally …

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The current scandal revolves around the recent resignation of school board member Yolanda Anderson, who stepped down from her post due to “personal family obligations.” According to Anderson’s resignation letter, these “obligations” caused her to move out of the district she represented – thus making her ineligible to continue serving.

Accordingly, she tendered her letter of resignation on August 2, 2021 – “effective immediately.”

However, Anderson’s resignation letter was not disclosed until a week later – on August 9. On that date, district leaders announced their plan to discuss her resignation (and plans for a special election to fill her seat) in executive session at a meeting on August 10.

As Matney reported yesterday, though, such a closed door meeting clearly violates the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) statutes.

So … why did Richland school district officials want to keep their deliberations secret?

According to several sources familiar with the situation, they were hoping to schedule a special election for this school district seat that would benefit Tameika Isaac Devine’s mayoral candidacy.

“(This) was an attempt to have that special election on the same date as the mayor’s race and was orchestrated by Tameika’s people,” one source told me Tuesday afternoon.

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Vacancies in elected offices must be filled according to applicable state law. According to the S.C. Code of Laws (§ 7-13-190), “if the office is not one for which there are partisan elections … (then) the election must be set for the thirteenth Tuesday after the vacancy occurs.”

Thirteenth Tuesday, huh?

School board races in Richland county are nonpartisan. That means if Anderson’s resignation was indeed effective on August 2, then the special election to fill her seat would be scheduled to fall on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. If Richland school officials were somehow able to delay the “vacancy” in this office until the following week, however – it would theoretically bump the election back to November 2, 2021.

Which is the same day as the city of Columbia mayoral race …

Such a delay would likely bolster voter turnout in a part of the city where Devine is expected to outperform her mayoral rivals.

This is not the first time elected officials in the Palmetto State have been accused of attempting to manipulate electoral calendars for the political benefit of themselves and their allies. Just last month, I reported on the latest developments up in York county – where incumbent mayor John Gettys of Rock Hill, S.C. has been accused of conspiring with local officials to delay city council elections in the hopes of gaining a benefit over his challenger, York county councilman William “Bump” Roddey.

Stay tuned … this news outlet plans on keeping tabs on the latest developments related to this disputed election date, as well.

News director Mandy Matney contributed to this report.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Via: FITSNews)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that Mike Schmidt-era Philadelphia Phillies’ lid pictured above).

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