New Stuff on L&M

Additional pages and links have been added to Lake and Main and the “Community Links” page has been edited for easier navigation.

Please email with changes, additions or notices of dead links.

ADDED:

Websites to Make You Smarter:  Free e-books, learn how to play chess or create a website, practice math skills, watch instructional videos and mini-lectures and more.

Fun and Useful Websites:  A compilation of websites on a variety of subjects from productivity to entertainment.

Conservative or Liberal?:  When reading news and opinion, it has become more important to understand the source of the information. Is the writer biased? Does the website have a particular bent?  On this page is an alphabetical list of the top liberal and conservative websites with their generally accepted label.

Top 50 Conservative Websites:  The 50 top conservative websites based on an average of rankings from Alexa, Quantcast, and SimilarWeb.

UPDATED:

Community Links:  Links to local service organizations, entertainment and recreation, government and business.

McMaster is Far From Being Another Trump

Caretaker Governor Henry McMaster is having a modern “identity crises.”  Sometimes, he wants South Carolinians to think he’s a southern Donald Trump.  Other times, he wants to identify as a female Indian-American (Nikki Haley).  Actually, of course, he’s neither.  He IS, in fact, what he is; a good ole’ boy politician embedded in a State House landscape dominated by an 87-year-old senator from Florence. 

Continue reading “McMaster is Far From Being Another Trump”

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.

Lexington School District 1 Property Purchase: UPDATE

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.

 

Lexington 1 to buy former board member’s land at 7 times appraised value | The State

Midlands school district to buy former board member’s land at 7 times appraised value

BY JEFF WILKINSON AND SARAH ELLIS

May 23, 2018

Lake and Main Comment: 

The District’s suggestion that the exorbitant purchase price might somehow be mitigated by savings on pre-construction costs is insulting. Those factors may, indeed, make the property more attractive, but to , essentially, pay those costs anyway is bad business and poor fiscal stewardship.

Further, it has not been disclosed who set the price for the property. Was it the Nichols family or did the school board arbitrarily multiply the appraised value by 7?  Was there any negotiation or was the deal made with a wink and a nod?

This purchase smacks of cronyism and demands better answers.

Contact the District One School Board:

http://www.lexington1.net/about/school-board/members

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Stambolitis Resigns From Lexington Town Council

Ted Stambolitis has resigned from the Lexington Town Council.  According to an official Town press release, “Mr. Stambolitis no longer meets the eligibility requirements of a qualified elector.”

Lake and Main questioned Mr. Stambolitis’ residential status in March and December, 2016 when he built a home on Lake Murray several miles outside Lexington’s town limits.  Earlier this month, the Stambolitis home in town was listed for sale.  Photographs of the interior of the home clearly show it as unoccupied, yet Mr. Stambolitis had claimed it as his primary residence.

Lake and Main also revealed in October and November of last year that he had not filed his state-mandated Statement of Economic Interest.  Due in March of each year, Mr. Stambolitis did not file his until November 3, 2017 – one day after Lake and Main’s second article.

Mr. Stambolitis’ resignation means a special election will have to be held to fill the position until the originally scheduled election in November.