Chairman Bill Evans quietly resigned from his seat on the Beaufort County Board of Education after a closed-door session at the beginning of Tuesday night's meeting, just before a half dozen residents piled on their criticism of him.
Board vice-chair Mary Cordray stifled tears as she made the announcement 2 1/2 hours later, after the board concluded its business and she shared the news with the board during a second, brief executive session.
Evans' decision came in the wake of ridicule of his handling of a nepotism scandal and two board members' calls for him to step down as their leader. That request, originated by member JoAnn Orischak, was in response to alleged holes in a letter Evans sent to the S.C. Ethics Commission about the hiring of the superintendent's wife last month.
Only a fraction of the 45 or so residents who sat in on the beginning of the Beaufort County School Board meeting remained in the room for the announcement about 9 p.m. Tuesday.
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Evans left the meeting after handing a letter of resignation to Cordray at the conclusion of the first 1 1/2-hour-long executive session, Cordray said.
She declined to comment after the meeting, saying she would answer questions only about children, not the "adult issues" that have stemmed from the controversial hiring of Darlene Moss, the wife of superintendent Jeff Moss, last month.
"This is not supposed to be about adult issues; this is supposed to be about kids," she said.
Another member, Earl Campbell, said he objected to Evans leaving his District 2 seat.
"I just think it was wrong, period," Campbell said. He would not comment further.
Board attorney Drew Davis said the board will follow proper election procedures to fill Evans' seat.
Attempts to reach Evans were unsuccessful.
Earlier in the evening, seven residents who spoke in the board meeting's public comment section addressed the recent controversial hire of Darlene Moss and her subsequent resignation. Each was critical of Jeff Moss and the school board members who have remained supportive of him or quiet on the issue.
Their comments also came after Orischak failed to gain the support of a majority of the board to bring Evans' replacement as chairman to a vote. Only Michael Rivers and Joseph Dunkle voted in favor of her motion, with the rest insisting they needed to further discuss the discipline or demotion of a board member behind closed doors.
Some residents chastised the board for waiting until the end of a Sept. 21 board meeting, which lasted 4 1/2 hours, to announce that Darlene Moss had already resigned. Others said the board's positive steps out of that meeting, such as planning to create a new nepotism policy, are diminished by the trust it continues to place in Jeff Moss.
One task the district has given Jeff Moss, directing him to review the district's administrative structure and determine which positions are necessary, seems "akin to asking Frank Perdue to baby-sit your chickens," speaker Rebecca Bass said.
Several residents specifically called on Evans to resign his chairmanship.
"Leadership change is the historical prerequisite to regaining public trust," speaker Barbara Wells said. "... With new leadership, this elected board should be able to improve all partnerships critical to student growth."
While some said they had been shocked by Jeff Moss' reaction to the public's outcry, one speaker said she expected it.
Anne Ballance, a parent who pulled her daughter out of a Beaufort County middle school, said she experienced indifference when she sought help from the superintendent and his staff.
"I was ignored, I was lied to, I was bullied, I was disparaged, I was completely disregarded and I was barely tolerated," Ballance said. "... Jeff Moss' hubris, arrogance and sense of entitlement has been appalling since he was hired and I, for one, am thrilled it has come to light in such a public way."
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.