Beaufort County School District attorney Drew Davis will resign his post as the district’s in-house lawyer effective May 31, just over a year before his contract is set to expire.
He said Thursday he has taken a new job but would not say what his new job will be.
Davis notified Beaufort County Board of Education members and key district staff of his resignation Tuesday, district spokesman Jim Foster said.
"I've got an exciting position that will offer some personal and professional growth," Davis said. "I think it's an exciting opportunity. I am looking forward to it."
Davis said he applied to his new job before Christmas.
"My wife and I have loved our four years in Beaufort and it's certainly bittersweet to leave," he continued. "I have enjoyed working for the staff and principals here. It's a district that has achieved major gains in the last four to five years and I hope they will continue."
Davis’ contract initially expired June 30, but was renewed through June 30, 2019, Foster said.
His resignation comes amid the district’s involvement in an FBI investigation. More recently, the Supreme Court of South Carolina’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel opened an investigation into Davis after a school board member filed a complaint, alleging professional misconduct on Davis' part.
Davis is the district’s first in-house lawyer. His base salary is the third highest among the district's roughly 2,800 employees.
The board voted 9-1 to hire him in July 2014. From the beginning, his position has been a source of controversy, in part because Davis was hired before passing the South Carolina Bar Exam and was paid by the district during the nine months he prepared for the exam.
The board defended its hiring of Davis, citing significant cost savings from a reduced reliance on outside counsel.
Davis presented data to the board last spring that he said showed his position has saved the district hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, according to Davis, the district spent close to $520,000 in the 2010 fiscal year. With Davis’ salary of $125,000 and about $90,000 in outside legal fees for the 2016 fiscal year, the district spent close to half of what average legal fees accounted for before his hire, Davis said.
While the hiring application for the district’s general counsel noted that the position reports to and is annually evaluated by both the superintendent and board, Davis’ contract was made only with the district. Per the terms of the agreement, the superintendent evaluates him and holds unilateral termination power.
Some board members have questioned Davis’ performance and to whom his loyalty lies.
Earlier this year, school board members pressed him over email on the accuracy of his advice offered behind closed doors when the board learned the U.S. Attorney’s Office had subpoenaed two district employees, to which Davis responded, “I represent the district and stand by my position.”
The district will post the job opening on its website "at some point," Foster said.