SC

Attempt To Toss Charleston Day Lawsuit Denied

Case against prestigious South Carolina academy moves forward …

Many in our audience will recall our recent reporting on Charleston Day – one of South Carolina’s most exclusive private schools. This prestigious Lowcountry academy caters to some of the Holy City’s most affluent and influential families – yet its leaders allegedly lied to state and federal officials to secure tax money during the Covid-19 pandemic by claiming more than half of its student body came from “low-income families.”

That’s right …

School leaders claimed 50.78 percent of Charleston Day’s student body hailed from poor families – a contention I have previously described as “utterly outlandish.”

This opportunistic falsehood enabled the school to secure tens of thousands of dollars in Covid stimulus money – funds the school didn’t need and was not entitled to receive, according to its critics. Specifically, the school received nearly $80,000 from the S.C. Department of Education (SCDE) as part of the federal government’s Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) program.

News of the questionable funding was first reported by this media outlet in February of 2022.

Earlier this year, we reported Charleston Day had been sued in federal court by one of its former trustees. According to that lawsuit, Charleston Day removed this trustee – and kicked his three children out of school – after he and his wife raised questions about school leaders’ shifting Covid-19 policies. Not only that, the lawsuit alleged school officials “actively interfered with (the trustee)’s ability to find another suitable school for his children.” In fact, the enrollment director at another local private school, Mason Prep, told the trustee and his wife on March 11, 2022 that their children were being denied admission “due to pressure from CDS.”

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The trustee in question is Charleston, S.C. attorney Matt Austin, who formerly worked for the office of the U.S. attorney in South Carolina. His wife, Francie Austin, currently serves as deputy city attorney for North Charleston, S.C. Her father is former U.S. attorney Bart Daniel, one of the Palmetto State’s most revered lawyers. Another former U.S. attorney, Bill Nettles, is currently representing the Austins’ in their case against the school.

Charleston Day sought to have that lawsuit dismissed earlier this year, but according to an order from U.S. district court judge Joseph Dawson IIIthe case is moving forward.

According to Dawson, Austin has “sufficiently pled a cause of action” under the anti-retaliation provision of the federal false claims act (31 U.S.C. § 3730), meeting the “reasonable inference” standard of three key elements: 1) That he was engaged in protected activity; 2) That his employer knew of the activity; and 3) that his employer took “adverse action against him as a result.”

Dawson noted Austin’s suit alleges he participated in “investigating, uncovering and reporting potential misuse of Covid funds” by school officials, which would indeed be classified as protected activity under the federal statute.

The judge also determined Austin had sufficiently documented his “statutory relationship” with the school, and that his allegations stated “a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”

Accordingly, “defendants’ motion to dismiss is denied.”

One of the attorneys mixed up in the Charleston Day drama (on the side of the school) is Alice F. Paylor, who has been billing taxpayers massive sums in her role as attorney for the local government-run school district. This media outlet has been digging into Paylor in connection with this story, and hope to file another report related to this saga soon.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks (Dylan Nolan)

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 (soon to be eight) children.

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1 comment

Happy Jack Top fan December 3, 2023 at 9:24 pm

Will, maybe you should consider speaking with Prof. Medlin and Desa Ballard regarding Alice Paylor’s incredible but short lived success in front of Judge Price in their case. As you may recall, Desa and Prof. Medlin testified in front of the Commission at Price’s public hearing. In their case, judge Price self-assignment of the matter to his docket after Judge Mullen’s had the case for five years and denied Alice Paylor’s former partner’s two motions to dismiss. Alice Paylor enters the case and Judge price Will ruling on a routine matter assigns the case to himself and lo and behold he grants summary judgment in favor of Ms. Paylor’s client months later and accuses the other side of skating to the edge of ethics. While this case was on appear to the SC Court if Appeals the SC Supreme Court takes it on their own initiative and dismisses the case via summary judgment orders Price signed which were word for word prepared by Alice Paylor. Judge Price granted Alice Paylor’s clients motion for summary judge in the Bonita Steed case which affectively recognized someone else as having title to property resulting in an elderly black women under a conservatorship being declared to have no ownership interest in the home. Yes, the SC Court of Appeals reversed Judge Price’s motion for summary judgment granted in favor of Alice’s clients in the Bonita Steed case as well. Just recently, Judge Price denied an injunction involving the Charleston County School Board relating to the placement of the Superintendent on leave. Yes, Alice Paylor was counsel for the CCSD who argued against the injunction in front of the Honorable Bentley Douglas Price.

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