The Beaufort County Board of Education gave Superintendent Jeff Moss a “proficient” annual evaluation Wednesday evening, a little more than three months after he admitted to ethics violations stemming from allegations of nepotism.
And while the board acknowledged its role in the matter — the hiring of the superintendent’s wife, Darlene Moss, to a district-level job, and the public outcry that resulted — it said the matter was resolved.
“However, concerning the ethics case involving the superintendent, the board, of course, is pleased that the matter was resolved in early August and is now behind us,” board member and secretary Evva Anderson said, reading Moss’ evaluation into the record during the special-called meeting.
“The board did not take specific disciplinary action regarding the ethics matter but did communicate to the superintendent its feelings, expectations and dissatisfaction with the way the matter unfolded,” Anderson continued. “The board also acknowledges a shared responsibility with what took place.”
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In August, Moss pleaded guilty to two ethics violations related to the hiring of his wife to a job paying $90,000 per year.
Specifically, he admitted to signing his wife’s contract for consulting work with the district, and presenting his wife’s candidacy for hire before the school board. A third charge — that he altered the administrative rule regarding language about the hiring of a superintendent’s family member — was dismissed by the South Carolina Ethics Commission.
His admission of guilt, part of a deal with the commission and described as “inadvertent and unintentional” by that agency, allowed him to avoid an ethics hearing.
Moss was publicly reprimanded and ordered to pay a $2,500 fine and $500 administrative fee.
On Wednesday, the board voted 7-2 to approve Moss’ evaluation.
Board members David Striebinger and JoAnn Orischak were the dissenting votes.
“I feel that the events of the past year have been so detrimental as to create long-term damage to the school district,” Orischak said. “And that is the reason for my vote this evening. And my vision of what it would take to move on ... differs significantly from the board majority.”
Orischak said she didn’t foresee the board taking further action on the ethics matter but didn’t think it would go away, either.
In its evaluation, the board praised Moss for taking steps to hire a more diverse staff, improving salaries and effectively managing the district’s finances.
The board said the superintendent needed to improve his external communication, the district’s overall achievement gap and its assessment efforts.
As a result of his favorable evaluation, Moss will receive a $33,000 retirement annuity, which is 15 percent of his $220,000 salary.
“I would say that he’s done a lot of great things for the district, but I believe the events of the past year are insurmountable, (as is) the erosion of trust that’s come out of that,” Orischak said, when asked what her message to Moss would be going forward.
“And trust is essential. ... It’s the foundation for the board-superintendent relationship, and that trust has been eroded over time — by not just one single event but others as well.”