By the Aug. 7 deadline, 10 days out from his scheduled appearance before the South Carolina Ethics Commission, Jeff Moss had not requested that his hearing be open to the public.
However, the commission now says that deadline — written in the commission’s notice of Aug. 17 hearing — was really more of a suggestion.
The Beaufort County School District superintendent can request to argue his ethics case in an open session up until the day of the hearing in Columbia, commission director Herb Hayden said Tuesday. The final decision would then be up to the panel of three commissioners overseeing the hearing, he said.
The hearing notices, which the commission provided to The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette in April, state that the proceedings would be held in a closed-door session “unless the respondent requests an open hearing. All such requests must be received by the commission no later than 10 days prior to the hearing.”
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But the deadline isn’t state law, so the commission cannot enforce it, Hayden says.
Rather, the commission encourages people to make a decision at least 10 days before their hearing so it can provide additional seating and so members of the media and public can plan to attend.
“It’s not law, and it’s not policy. I guess it’s an unwritten policy, if you will,” Hayden said.
The director said he has never seen such a request in his 28 years with the commission.
Moss was charged with three counts of ethics violations in April after two citizens accused him of influencing his wife’s hiring for a district-level job in September and winning a district consulting contract in December 2014.
Moss has maintained he acted ethically, but he refused to answer a reporter’s question Monday on whether he had requested his hearing to be open.
On Tuesday, he did not respond to a call for comment.