At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Jeff Moss withdrew his request to be reimbursed by the Beaufort County School District for legal fees associated with his recently ended ethics investigation.
It’s not clear how much the district stood to pay in legal fees before Moss waived his contractual right to have the district cover his costs. While Moss’ attorney, Greg Harris of Columbia, said in August that he’d sent his client a bill, the school district said Moss had not charged them.
Moss made the announcement at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled board meeting, after apologizing for his conduct related to last year’s investigation by the South Carolina Ethics Commission, which found him guilty in August of two ethics violations for his involvement in the hiring of his wife to two district positions.
The hiring scandal led to the resignations of his wife, Darlene Moss, and the school board’s former chairman, Bill Evans, last year and two ethics violations against himself in August.
“Over the last 12 months, I know some have focused on a single issue without acknowledgment of all the wonderful things occurring in our schools and with our students,” Moss said. “I apologize for any actions surrounding that topic on my part, but we must get back to focus on the impressive things, like you heard tonight, by our students, teachers, staff and schools, because they’re occurring each and every day in our schools.”
A statement issued by district spokesman Jim Foster late Tuesday said Moss stated “I apologize for my actions surrounding this topic.” However, in county video of the meeting published online Wednesday, the superintendent can be heard saying he is sorry for “any actions ... on my part.
Moss also said he was withdrawing his request for reimbursement “in an attempt to return back to what I know we are all here for, and that’s improving the educational opportunities for all 22,000 kids we serve each and every day.”
In 2014, Moss signed a consulting contract for his wife, Darlene Moss, to be paid $6,400 for six months of work. In September 2015, he recommended his wife’s hire to a a district-level, director’s job that would have paid her $90,000 per year.
As part of his plea deal with the ethics commission, Moss was issued a public reprimand and ordered to pay $3,000 in fees and fines, but was allowed to describe his actions as “unintentional and inadvertent.” By admitting guilt, Moss avoided a hearing and the commission did not pursue a third ethics charge against him related to his changing the district’s nepotism rule around the same time as his wife’s hire.
After the commission’s decision, Moss told reporters he was hopeful the district could now regain credibility and trust.
“I think what folks will see is my story did not change from the very beginning, and this outside agency did a (months-long) investigation and the facts say exactly what I’ve been saying,” Moss said in August. “I think there will probably be some who are disappointed that there’s no smoking gun, that I’m not convicted of something, but I can’t live that way. I have to keep the school system in a positive direction.”
The school board took no action against Moss for the ethics violations.
Before Tuesday, Moss had only publicly apologized once for his actions — on Sept. 21, 2015, for the inconvenience they’d caused board members who were being approached by members of the public and called by the media over his wife’s new job.
While some board members have said they steadfastly support Moss, others have said he should have been penalized in some way for the hiring scandal.
One board member, Michael Rivers, has repeatedly said Moss should have been fired for what he calls a breach of trust and nepotism.
Attempts to reach the superintendent Tuesday evening and on Wednesday were unsuccessful.