Beaufort News

Beaufort County Board of Education member calls for chairman's resignation

Beaufort County School Board chairman Bill Evans listens to the parade of speakers who stood up to criticize the board and district superintendent Jeff Moss during a special school board meeting held on Monday to discuss issues surrounding the hiring of Moss' wife to an administrative position with the district.
Beaufort County School Board chairman Bill Evans listens to the parade of speakers who stood up to criticize the board and district superintendent Jeff Moss during a special school board meeting held on Monday to discuss issues surrounding the hiring of Moss' wife to an administrative position with the district. jkarr@islandpacket.com

A member of the Beaufort County Board of Education has called on Bill Evans to resign as chairman in the wake of public outrage at the board and school district's handling of a recent, controversial hire.

JoAnn Orischak sent an email to Evans requesting he step down, and copied the full board, superintendent Jeff Moss, board attorney Drew Davis and a member of the S.C. Ethics Commission, she wrote in a separate email to an Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette reporter Saturday.

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Orischak says she asked that Evans reply at the board's next regularly scheduled board meeting, which would be 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Board member Joseph Dunkle said Monday morning that Orischak's email was in response to a written letter Evans sent to the Ethics Commission -- which has been sent at least one complaint in regard to the situation.

Evans, who has supported Jeff Moss throughout the controversy, also provided the letter to board members.

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A copy of the letter, provided anonymously to the Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette, included a timeline of events of Jeff Moss' actions in approving the hire of his wife, Darlene Moss, to a newly restructured administrative position. Darlene Moss resigned Sept. 19, just days after she began work in the $90,000-salary job.

Orischak and board member Michael Rivers have been outspoken in their criticism of Jeff Moss' actions in approving the hire of his wife, Darlene Moss.

Jeff Moss quickly came under fire for changing a nepotism rule that limited the hiring of family members of the superintendent, as well as neglecting to tell the board about the rule change or his wife's interest in applying.

Evans' letter states that Jeff Moss spoke with him on or about July 24 or 25 about Darlene Moss' possible interest in a position with the school district.

On Monday, Jeff Moss said that conversation was not prompted by the director of innovation job, which was posted July 25.

Instead, it occurred after another administrator approached him to ask whether he thought Darlene Moss would be interested in working as a career development facilitator, a position that may be available in the future at Battery Creek or May River High School, Jeff Moss said.

He maintained Monday he did not know Darlene Moss was interested in the director of innovation job until she applied July 28, and added that he did not discuss the possible career development facilitator job with his wife.

"You could say it's a coincidence," Jeff Moss said. "I was just talking about employment in general."

After Jeff Moss said his wife would not report directly to him, "Mr. Evans commented that he felt comfortable because of the supervision separation, and because he had experienced the same several times before in Beaufort and in other districts where he had worked," the letter reads.

While Jeff Moss said he did not speak to Evans about a specific position, Evans writes to the Ethics Commission that the superintendent named a specific supervisor, chief instructional services officer Dereck Rhoads.

Evans declined to comment Monday on Orischak's email and added that he does not recall Jeff Moss telling him in July that Rhoads would supervise Darlene Moss.

"I suspect that what I did was substitute the fact later on," in the letter to the commission, Evans said.

Evans did not inform the rest of the board about Darlene Moss' interest or her application, a decision he said last week he now regrets.

This was one of "two critical omissions" Evans made in his letter to the Ethics Commission, Orischak wrote in her email, also provided anonymously to the Packet and Gazette.

The other came when Evans details how the board learned of Darlene Moss' interest in the job during an executive session on Sept. 1.

Evans wrote that only one member, Evva Anderson, raised a concern, the same that Evans had raised -- "who will supervise Mrs. Moss?"

Jeff Moss answered that Darlene Moss would be supervised by Rhoads.

However, Orischak writes that other board members raised another question: "Would Mrs. Moss' hiring present a violation?"

Jeff Moss and attorney Davis reportedly said "No."

"Neither the superintendent nor the board's attorney thought it relevant to inform the board of the recent change to the administrative rule," Orischak wrote in her email.

"... Your negligence in this matter has severely undermined the board going forward," she added to Evans.

Jeff Moss said Monday he does not remember any board members asking that question. He declined to comment on Orischak's email.

While Orischak requested Evans respond in open session, proper protocol requires the issue be discussed first in closed-door executive session, according to board vice-chairwoman Mary Cordray. She added the topic to Tuesday's agenda as "board relations."

Dunkle said he plans to object.

"I don't think it's an executive session item," Dunkle said.

Reached Monday, board members Cordray, Paul Roth, Earl Campbell and Laura Bush declined to comment on the issue, either because they had not seen Evan's letter or Orischak's email or because they wanted to discuss the situation with the board first.

Attempts to speak with members Bill Payne, Geri Kinton and Evva Anderson were unsuccessful.

Board member Rivers said Monday he agrees the chairman should step down.

"Bill's a little tone deaf obviously because the majority of the public is extremely dissatisfied with the way things were handled," Rivers said. "Right now, the board needs to restore some credibility, and that's probably one of the first steps to move in that direction."

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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