School board chairman: In hindsight, Hilton Head's Morello should have resigned

rheaton@islandpacket.comOctober 19, 2012 

Steven Morello

When the Beaufort County Board of Education meets with its newly elected members in January, there's a chance that all 11 members will be at the dais.

That hasn't happened in more than a year.

Two members, Wayne Carbiener and Steven Morello, have been absent from every or nearly every school board meeting since Oct. 4, 2011.

In fact, board chairman Fred Washington Jr. said in hindsight, he should have asked Morello to step down because his job as a commercial truck driver took him out of town so frequently.

"It evolved from one thing to the other, and it didn't work out," Washington said. "Every time we thought it might be resolved, it wasn't."

Carbiener, who represents part of Hilton Head Island, has battled health problems and hasn't attended a meeting in person since Oct. 4, 2011. He participates and votes in most meetings by conference call.

But Morello, who also represents a portion of Hilton Head, is rarely able to call into the meetings. In fact, he hasn't voted on an issue since Aug. 7, the last meeting he attended by phone, according to board records.

Morello's attendance became sporadic after he took a job as a trucker. His route kept him away from home for stretches of time and unable to attend board meetings.

"I want to get back," he said in February. "I don't want to be out here. I'm away from a job I care about. I'm away from my son. I don't like this, and I'm doing the best I can to get back. But in the meantime, I still have to put food on the table and take care of my obligations."

An attempt to reach Morello for this story was unsuccessful.

Morello attended the Oct. 4, 2011 meeting. The next time he attended a meeting was Dec. 13. He hasn't been back since, though he has called into four meetings this calendar year: Feb. 7, March 6, May 29 and Aug. 7.

Because he hasn't attended meetings, Morello hasn't been paid the $50 per meeting board members receive. Carbiener has been paid for the meetings he attends by phone.

Board members also earn $7,500 per year as a salary. Interim superindent Jackie Rosswurm, district chief of operations Phyllis White and Washington could not saywhen contacted after hours Friday whether Morello had been paid that salary.

If Morello resigned, he could have been replaced. Beaufort County Board of Voter Registration and Elections director Scott Marshall said the seat would have been filled either in a special election or by a governor's appointment.

Washington said that by the time it became clear Morello's absenteeism would be chronic, neither of those options seemed feasible -- Morello's seat would be up for grabs in the Nov. 6 general election, anyway, and a new board member would serve only a few months. Morello was drawn into District 10. No one filed to run for the seat, but three candidates have launched write-in campaigns: Mike Sanz, Joe Kopf and Flo Rosse.

Julie Bell, the other Hilton Head representative on the board, said she also thinks Morello should have been asked to step down. Though he's dialed into a few executive sessions, or occasionally emailed the board with his opinion on an issue -- he supported installing cameras on school buses, he said in an email -- that's not representing his constituents, Bell said. Representing them requires being in touch with them and knowing how they feel about issues, she said.

"But why don't you call in the night we've voting and express that?" she said. "Just expressing his opinion to us in an email no one else sees is just not good enough."

But not too many of Morello's constituents seem concerned about not being represented, Bell said. She said she has heard from only a few.

"No one was jumping up and down (to have him resign)," she said. "If someone was, it probably would have happened."

Bell said she thinks the board has suffered by essentially being short a member.

"I'm hoping when the election does occur, the 11 that are elected will be committed," she said. "It takes that many viewpoints a lot of times, just to prompt you to think about something through someone else's eyes."

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content:

Morello missing many Beaufort County Board of Education meetings; Feb. 20, 2012

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