It is wrong that a Jasper County school board member can't get information about how school district officials have spent public money and how they've gone about the very important job of hiring.
Randy Horton should get the documents he seeks, first because they are public records and second because he views them as necessary to do the job he was elected to do. It is wrong, but unfortunately not all that unusual, that he has had to submit a formal request for documents he should be able to see by virtue of his office.
Horton has asked for:
His requests strike us as a legitimate line of inquiry. If district officials fear that giving Horton the documents would put them out in the public domain, we're unsympathetic. How Jasper County officials conduct their jobs and spend money is of public interest.
Jay Bender, who represents the S.C. Press Association and deals frequently with the open records law, said it well: "It's absurd that the administration is denying this board member access to records and that the superintendent is being backed up by a majority of the board. Even the most unenlightened public bodies understand that the people being elected to run the body are entitled to information."
Bender points to a state attorney general's opinion that elected officials are entitled to see all the records of the public body they govern in order to fulfill their obligations to their constituents.
That the law firm representing the district would take the position that Horton shouldn't get all that he is asking for is not surprising. The firm, which also represents the Beaufort County School District, has more often than not worked to keep information from the public rather than ensure district officials follow the law.
As for not allowing Horton to speak at board meetings on the issues he's trying to get to the bottom of, Snooks does herself and other board members no favors by abruptly ending meetings and not tending to district business as a result.
Horton might have gone about getting the board to address his questions the wrong way when he tried to speak during the time set aside to hear from the public, but Snooks and the other board members should figure out a less disruptive and divisive way to deal with his concerns.