More Questions for School Board: No Answers

Have you ever watched one of those reality TV shows in which a couple is looking to buy a new house?  They are very specific about their “must haves:” granite counter tops, dual sink bathroom, hardwood floors, large back yard, etc..  They may have to do some renovations, but they’re prepared to do that to get what they want.  So, off they go, looking for the perfect property.

What you will NOT see, even on television, is buyers finding exactly what they want, where they want it and at a good price, and then proclaiming: “You know, this house is so perfect and it’s move-in ready, so we’re going to pay MORE than the asking price.  In fact, since we don’t have to do any renovations, we’re going to pay SEVEN TIMES what the house is worth!”

Nope.  Not even on TV.

Ask any car dealer if a buyer offered to pay double, triple or SEVEN TIMES the MSRP for a vehicle because {s}he didn’t have to add any after-market options.

I wonder how many members of the Lexington One School Board have ever bought a car like that.  Well, maybe if they knew the dealer and had been a former colleague.

The Board’s decision to purchase 55 acres of land for $982.980 ($17.872/acre) as a site for a new school in Pelion has raised questions and eyebrows, but, unfortunately, not the curtain of secrecy.

The School Board has only referred to their website as explanation.  Read it, please, and decide for yourself if there is adequate justification for paying an exorbitant amount of money to a former colleague!

As noted, there are questions and Lake and Main has asked them of Board Chair Debbie Knight.  In a 26 May email to Ms. Knight, the following was posed:

  • How was the purchase price calculated and who proposed it?
  • Was the price negotiated? 
  • Was other land considered?
  • Did the seller solicit the board or did the board approach the seller?
  • Was the property listed for sale?
  • Have cost estimates been calculated for construction on the property? If so, what are they?
  • Were there any concerns by board members about the cost of the property?
D_Knight
Lexington 1 Board Chair               Debra L. Knight

Chairperson Knight’s response was:

Mr. Speight, Thank you for reaching out to me. I would suggest you contact Mary Beth Hill our Director of Communications. You can reach her at 803 821-1152.  Our process for land purchase is also on our website.

A subsequent email to Ms. Hill on 29 May has not yielded a response.

Chairperson Knight didn’t answer the questions.  None of them.  She, one of six people who voted (unanimously) for the purchase, was unable or unwilling to provide details.  That’s disturbing.  In fact, the email sent to Chairperson Knight included distribution to every member of the Board.  None responded.

Further, she passed me off to the Director of Communications who has not communicated!

Since that “exchange,” other questions have come to mind.

  • What, if any, real estate person or company brokered the purchase?
  • If there was a brokering agent, are there connections to any of the board members?
  • If there was a brokering agent, what commission was paid?

The Lexington One Board has – or should have – easily accessible records to respond to these question quickly.  According to media reports, the purchase of the property was approved in the May 15 meeting “unanimously.”  As of this writing, those records have not been posted online, although those for previous meetings contain vague references to property matters “discussed in executive session.”

I’ll say here what many others have said, this thing stinks.  There are three possibilities that might explain the smell. 

Miscommunication.  The Board hasn’t adequately clarified the purchase.  Still, there has been ample time and opportunity to do so and no reasonable or acceptable clarification has resulted.

Incompetence.  Perhaps the Board had nothing but the good intentions it has claimed and just made a very poor and expensive decision. All six of them – making the same very poor decision.  If so, that’s hardly a satisfying defense and the community should remove them for more competent fiscal stewards.  All six of them.

Corruption.  Harsh word, but one that is being spoken.  

This story is not over.  These and other questions are being asked of the South Carolina State Ethics Commission. 

Stay tuned.

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6 thoughts on “More Questions for School Board: No Answers

  1. They obviously did not treat this transaction like it was their money or a personal purchase. Public Office is a Public Trust. What you hear before an election should be what you see after the election. Voters shouldn’t forget this financial miscarriage.❌❌❌❌

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  2. I emailed Debbie Knight and for some reason she was not able to email me back (sometimes my email will block what it thinks is Spam). She did call and leave me a message and asked me to call her back so she could explain their reasoning. I have not called her back yet because I feel it will probably just be more of what is on their website.

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  3. What happened to the Chairperson acting as the public spokesperson for the board?
    She referred me to the district’s Communications Officer as well.

    Could it be because the leadership team at the district office makes all of the decisions for our board members and the board just rubberstamps those at every meeting?

    Yeah. You betcha. That’s why they can’t answer any questions. Because they don’t have any answers.

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  4. We the People of Lexington County have elected these Board members to handle all School transactions in our best interest. This transaction leaves so many unanswered questions. I can only conclude that the delayed response to questions is a stall tactic to get their story together. This also raises the question of the inadequate ability of this Board to keep accurate minutes of their meetings. A question can be answered in a matter of hours from the meeting minutes.
    We have a election soon, please vote these folks out and replace with trustworthy folks. Folks who have the taxpayers interest front and foremost above individual interest.

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  5. Our board members should respect this community and openly come forward and give answers. If not it is obvious they know it was wrong. If Debbie Knight cant handle the Chairpersons job of answering questions she needs to step down. Why turn it over to Mary Beth Maher. She did not help make the decision! There shd be an open forum held with the community on this issue!
    I truly cant believe there is any land in pelion at that value!
    Just like Riverbluff, money just wasted!

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