Lexington School District 1’s curious (or so it appears) purchase of a large tract of land from a former school board member may be uncontestable by taxpayers.
On May 15, the District 1 School Board voted unanimously to purchase 55 acres of land in Pelion from former board member and Pelion High School principal Jean Nichols Haggard and her brother, Hugh A. Nichol for an astonishing $982,980 – seven (7) times the assessed value.
When asked to investigate the purchase, the Office of the State Superintendent and
Office of Governmental Affairs in the South Carolina Department of Education told Lake and Main, “You may contact the SC State Inspector General’s office directly but this matter falls solely under the legal authority of your locally elected school board.”
The State Inspector General’s website specifically states that school districts are not within it’s jurisdiction for investigation.
So, it appears that the school board is the only authority for examining the actions – of the school board!
An inquiry has also been emailed to the South Carolina Attorney General. Further, a text message was sent to one of the board members for comment, but the member has yet to respond.
There are multiple questions about this deal that do not reflect positively on the board. The explanation on the district’s website is weak, at best, and more than a little condescending. Given what is known and, more importantly, what is unknown, those are serious questions.
- How was the purchase price calculated and who proposed it?
- What plans are on the books for the property?
- Was other land considered?
- Did the seller solicit the board or did the board approach the seller?
- Was the property listed for sale?
The Lexington School District 1 must understand the magnitude of the implications of this purchase and the rights of district taxpayers, parents, students and teachers. Otherwise, a very ugly question is going to be asked.