“One decision... I wish I could take back”: Beaufort County superintendent looks back
For the second time in three years, former Beaufort County schools superintendent Jeff Moss has been named in a state ethics complaint, according to documents obtained by The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette.
The complaint, filed sometime this year with the S.C. State Ethics Commission, is related to unspecified expenses charged to the district during Moss’ tenure.
It was unclear Monday who filed the complaint or whether the commission has decided to hold a hearing about the matter.
In an email Friday, Meghan Walker, a spokesperson for the ethics board, said the commission “can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a complaint.”
Moss, currently under investigation by the FBI for financial transactions, contracts and projects he oversaw as superintendent, stepped down from the district July 31. As part of his settlement agreement with the Beaufort County Board of Education, he received an estimated $280,000.
The board also agreed to defend Moss in any legal proceeding brought against him in his official capacity as superintendent based on the understanding that he was “acting in good faith and within the scope of his employment.”
This past fall Moss asked the school board to foot the bill for his legal representation in both the federal investigation, as well as his latest ethics commission complaint, according to the documents obtained by the Packet and the Gazette.
No charges have been filed in either case.
In a Nov. 12 letter to school board, board attorney David Duff advised members that at this point neither case meets the criteria outlined in Moss’ settlement agreement with the board for his legal reimbursement.
When and if the ethics commission decides to hold a hearing, “... there would still be a question of whether Moss was acting in ‘good faith’ and ‘within the scope of his employment,’” Duff wrote in the letter.
After meeting behind closed doors Nov. 13, the board voted to deny Moss’ request.
Although the motion only stated that the board was denying “a request from an employee to represent him/her in a legal matter,” board chairman Earl Campbell confirmed Thursday that the employee was Moss and that the legal matter was an “issue with the ethics commission.”
The Nov. 12 letter did not state how much Moss’ legal expenses for the ethics complaint might cost the district, however emails from Moss sent in September to board chairman Earl Campbell show that Moss requested $35,000 to have former U.S. Attorney Bart Daniel to represent him in the FBI investigation.
Moss did not respond to a phone call seeking comment Monday.
Reached by email Monday evening, however, Moss responded: “I don’t know where you have received your information, but any disclosure of information which is considered confidential as it relates to the ethics commission and, Section 8-13-320 (9) and (10), must not be willfully released or disclosed. If disclosed it will be reported to the state as a violation and the party making the disclosure will be held accountable.”
In August 2016, Moss admitted to two ethics violations related to the hiring of his wife for a high-paying district-level job and requested then that the board cover his legal fees, the cost of which was never revealed.
During the 2016 investigation, however, Moss withdrew his request for reimbursement “in an attempt to return back to what I know we are all here for, and that’s improving the educational opportunities for all 22,000 kids we serve each and every day,” he said.