Fourth FBI subpoena is focused on former Beaufort County School superintendent Moss
The Beaufort County School District has again been subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for documents related to former superintendent Jeff Moss’ five-year tenure at the district — including Moss’ personnel records, as well as information about the district’s connection to the controversial Education Research and Development Institute and more than 30 other companies.
It is not clear whether the federal subpoena issued to the school district on Aug. 2 is part of an ongoing FBI investigation related to the construction of two Bluffton schools, in which three previous federal subpoenas have been issued to the district and its employees since January.
The newest subpoena requires the district to hand over Moss’ personnel file, including employment contracts, annual performance reviews and ratings, disciplinary records, outside employment requests and disclosures, travel and entertainment expenses, as well as bonuses, “ethics training received” and “conflict of interest disclosures” from August 2013, when Moss started with the district, through the present.
Investigators are also asking for “the evaluation, procurement, contracts, and purchase of products and services by the Beaufort County School District” of 34 education product companies.
The first company listed is the Education Research and Development Institute.
Moss worked as a paid consultant for ERDI for at least the past two years, according to his Statement of Economic Interests filed with the State Ethics Commission.
ERDI is an organization that pays superintendents and school administrators to attend meetings with educational technology companies and to offer feedback about various educational products.
He was not required to disclose the amount that he earned from the organization.
The board was notified about the fourth subpoena in a closed-door meeting Aug. 7 before its regularly scheduled public meeting.
Geri Kinton, the board’s vice chair, said the content of the most recent subpoena does not change her longtime support for Moss because “all it is is a request for information.”
Kinton said she believed Moss told the board during a public meeting that ERDI had approached him and he was interested in working with the organization. She could not say exactly when he brought the matter to the board, but she thought it was in 2014.
Bill Evans, a former board member who served during 2014, said he thought Moss was either already a consultant with ERDI when he joined the district in 2013 or that Moss began working with the organization in shortly after coming to Beaufort County.
He did not recall Moss bringing up the matter in any “official setting” — either during a public meeting or an executive session.
Evans did, however, say he recalled Moss mentioning the organization several times, such as when Moss would take a trip to a meeting that the organization was hosting.
Bill Payne, who has been on the board since 2014, said he remembered Moss mentioning ERDI at some point. But, Payne said Moss worked with a number of outside organizations, so he could not specifically say when Moss told the board about ERDI.
On multiple occasions, superintendents and administrators across the country have been accused and found guilty of ethics violations for concealing their outside consulting roles and conflicts of interest.
In April 2017, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for trying to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks for handing out contracts to an education consulting firm where she had previously worked, according to The Chicago Tribune.
In a similar case in April 2018, a former superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools was sentenced to serve six months in prison after he pleaded guilty to four counts of perjury for failing to disclose income for his outside consulting and speaking engagements, some of which were through ERDI, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Moss resigned from the district May 15, two years before his contract was up and after five controversial years in the district — which included two failed referendums, two guilty pleas to state ethics violations over the hiring of his wife in a high-paying district job and the ongoing FBI investigation.
His last day at the district was July 31.
The subpoena issued Aug. 2 was released to The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette on Tuesday afternoon after the newspapers submitted a second Freedom of Information Act request for “any federal subpoenas issued to the Beaufort County School District.”
The district released all three subpoenas in its possession, including two subpoenas from December 2017 that the Beaufort County school board had refused to release in February, citing a preference from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Carolina that they not be released and saying they wanted to protect the integrity of the investigation.
Board members also received copies of the subpoenas for the first time Tuesday afternoon.
To review the subpoenas click on the below: