Beaufort News

Moss’ ethics violations are grounds for dismissal, two on school board say


One day after Beaufort County School District superintendent Jeff Moss admitted to two ethics violations and was publicly reprimanded by the South Carolina Ethics Commission, several school board members are saying they need to readdress last fall’s nepotism scandal.

On Thursday, The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette asked each Beaufort County school board member to respond to Moss’ plea deal, which states the superintendent “inadvertently and unintentionally” broke two ethics laws in signing off on his wife’s hire to a district-level job in September and approving her temporary consulting contract the year before.

As part of the deal, the commission is not pursuing a third charge related to Moss altering the district’s nepotism rule, and requires him to pay a total of $3,000 — money that must come out of his own pocket, according to the district. The district is responsible for paying his legal fees, but the total cost was not clear Thursday.

The newspaper asked each board member whether the deal ended the issue for them, or spurs them to take further action.

Here’s what they said:

Mary Cordray

Chairwoman: District 8, Bluffton, northern Hilton Head Island

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She did not respond to requests for comment.

Laura Bush

Vice Chair: District 9, Bluffton, Hardeeville

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Is the issue over: No

Bush declined to give an opinion on the issue, but said she expects the board to discuss it soon. “I think the decision in the consent order requires a board discussion,” Bush said. “To me, it’s not an individual board member’s decision. I’d like to discuss the answer with the full board.”

Evva Anderson

Secretary: District 7, Bluffton, Pritchardville

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She did not respond to requests for comment.

Earl Campbell

District 1, Grays Hill, Lobeco

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He did not respond to requests for comment.

David Striebinger

District 2, Beaufort, St. Helena Island, Lady’s Island, Fripp Island

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Is the issue over: No

Striebinger said the board has grounds to take certain actions, but he would not elaborate.

“The board has to do something,” Striebinger said. “Certainly, it’s the elephant in the room. ... This was not a clean-slate kind of a thing, so now we have a superintendent who has ethics violations, and that is a basis for dismissal with cause, so we have to discuss that.”

Michael Rivers

District 3, Beaufort, Lady’s Island, St. Helena Island

▪ 843-263-8467 — cell


Is the issue over: No

Rivers said he thinks the board should strongly reprimand Moss and sever ties with him, either through a resignation or firing.

Based on the commission’s findings, Rivers said, “the public and some board members were not hallucinating when they thought the board was quite lenient and non-responsive to the seriousness of what took place.”

“I think the cloud (over the district) is more pronounced now than it ever was,” Rivers added. “... Quite frankly, I think we can’t move forward as a school district as long as Dr. Moss is our superintendent.”

Joseph Dunkle

District 4, Port Royal, Beaufort

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Is the issue over: No

Dunkle said the board must decide what further action to take, but declined to comment further.

“I think the board should just discuss what we think needs to be done and go from there.”

Geri Kinton

District 5, Okatie, Hardeeville, Burton, Beaufort

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She did not respond to requests for comment.

Paul Roth

District 6, Okatie, Hardeeville

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Is the issue over: Yes

“It seemed to me it’s over. There’s no further story that I can see,” Roth said. “I have always said I backed Dr. Moss, because he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to the school district in decades. He’s done an outstanding job.”

Bill Payne

District 10, northern Hilton Head Island

▪ 843-682-3285 — home

▪ 310-600-0873 — cell


Is the issue over: Yes

At first, Payne responded that he would need time to speak with his fellow board members and to “do some more soul-searching myself.” When pressed, he said he was not in favor of taking any further action.

“I’m ready to move forward with serving the students and staff of Beaufort County School District. My ultimate reason for being on the school board was put into reverse, and I’m ready to move forward on putting children first again.”

JoAnn Orischak

District 11, southern Hilton Head Island

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Is the issue over: No

Orischak said the board needs to discuss the results of the ethics investigation. She declined to be more specific.

“The events of the past year leading up to this have sharply divided the board, eroded public trust, and dampened district morale,” she said. “The board can only respond to such developments as a body and not as individuals. My intentions as the District 11 representative will be to resolve this situation expeditiously in the best interests of district employees and students.”

Rebecca Lurye: 843-706-8155, @IPBG_Rebecca