Beaufort County school board member Paul Roth doesn’t have an opponent yet for his re-election bid in November. Friday, he showed he doesn’t have much respect for his peers on the board, either.
In a wide-ranging interview that began as a question on the dearth of candidates challenging three incumbents up for re-election, Roth denigrated his colleagues’ experience, called some on the board “screw ups” and implied another was elected in part because she was a “hot chick.”
When asked Friday why Roth thought there were no challengers yet in the three incumbents’ races — his, Earl Campbell’s and JoAnn Orischak’s, the Okatie representative answered by detailing the qualities of each person. Campbell, he said, is intelligent and well-respected in District 1’s “African community,” in Gray’s Hill and Lobeco.
As for himself, Roth repeated that he has a long history of board service.
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When asked about Orischak, of District 11 on southern Hilton Head Island, Roth suggested her appearance was a major factor in her 2012 election and lack of challengers today.
“JoAnn, she is a very charming, well-related person, and from my age, she’s a hot chick,” Roth said. “Politics is part show business and the fact that she’s attractive and the fact that she’s charming and likable and has charisma, in the political area, you can’t just say no.”
He also emphasized she was a mother of three — “Some people would say she’s getting old, but from my angle, 35 years older than her, she’s a very attractive lady,” and said, “If she was 50 pounds heavier, and she had a big wart on her nose, I don’t think people would react to her the same way. Let’s say it that way.”
He defended his comments, saying he was not being sexist but stating a “plain fact.” He also said he was bi-partisan and “certainly gender-neutral.”
“Using the term hot chick was a bad attempt at humor. It wasn’t to say that she’s sexy. That would be over the top. That would be inappropriate.”
When asked repeatedly why a board member’s appearance was relevant, Roth said, “If you go after me, we won’t be friends anymore.”
Roth has also said several times, including Friday, that he is the most qualified member of the school board.
“Without me there, there are people on the board who are just screw-ups, and you know their names. People who are against everything just because the ‘careless people’ — they call themselves the CARE people — are,” he said, in reference to the local interest group Citizens Advocating Responsible Education.
Roth previously criticized CARE during a November meeting, saying “People that come up here and tell you that Dr. Moss should be fired are loony in my opinion,” before he was eventually cut off by chairperson Mary Cordray.
That prompted CARE co-founders Richard Bisi and Rebecca Bass to call for his resignation. Reached Friday, Bisi said the group is actively searching for someone to run against Roth because of that comment and feels “very strongly he’s got to go.”
“I feel I’ve been a critical element,” Roth said of his four-year term on the board. “I’d like to say I take credit for everything but that wouldn’t be fair.”
Though he said “none of the board members have any experience on boards except me,” two of his colleagues — Campbell and Laura Bush — have each served 25 years on the school board and others have done stints on the Riverview Charter School Board.
Roth made similar comments in November when interviewed about whether he wanted to serve as board chairman after Bill Evans’ resignation.
“Even though I’m the most qualified and the most experienced, I’m not in the race because I’m old,” he said Nov. 2. “... That doesn’t mean they aren’t smart, with good sense and instincts. It’s just that they don’t know anything.”
Cordray, who was elected board chairperson, is the budget director of the University of South Carolina-Beaufort.
He also said Friday that “none of them can really qualify as educators, either, except for maybe (Bill) Payne as principal.”
Payne spent more than 40 years in Beaufort County schools before his retirement. Orischak was a teacher of kindergarten through second grade. Evva Anderson, Geri Kinton and Cordray have worked in classrooms.
In reference to board procedure, Roth said he was the “only one who understood Robert’s Rules (of Order)” — the authority on proper meeting procedure. “They’ve never heard of it.”
Roth also commented Friday on an S.C. Ethics Commission hearing that has been called for Moss on three counts of alleged ethics violations stemming from his wife’s hiring.
Because Roth believes Moss will be “exonerated,” he says he would not suggest opening the hearing up to the public, a decision the superintendent has until Aug. 7 to make.
“The fact that he has a right to a private hearing is under the law, legal and just for that purpose, so that people don’t have to go through some kind of lynching before they decide to throw away the rope,” Roth said.
Orischak declined to comment on Roth’s statements Friday. Attempts to reach Cordray were unsuccessful.