Editorials

Beaufort County School District subpoenas should have been public all along

New Beaufort County interim superintendent Herbert Berg, seen here in 2013, takes a new approach to public information.
New Beaufort County interim superintendent Herbert Berg, seen here in 2013, takes a new approach to public information. Courtesy of The (Camden, SC) Chronicle-Independent

Finally, the public has a clue about why the FBI is investigating the Beaufort County School District.

The question has been in the air since February, when the public found out about two subpoenas filed in January.

The answers started to flow almost the minute former superintendent Jeffrey C. Moss, who as it turns out the FBI wants to know a lot more about, left the building.

We hope that is a sign of a new day, new transparency and civil behavior by school district leaders.

We now have seen the first two subpoenas, and a fourth one dated July 25 seeking a large volume of information on Moss.

All the subpoenas should have been public from the moment they were received.

Contrary to what Moss and a former school district attorney told the school board and the public, there was never any sound reason the subpoenas should have been kept secret. But the school board bent over backward to keep them secret. And the Moss administration bent over backward to keep even the school board members from possessing the subpoenas.

These newspapers filed again — for the second time — a Freedom of Information Act request for the subpoenas on the day that Moss left with his settlement of some $280,000 granted by the school board for him to leave his contract early.

And on the second try, it worked. The public won.

Give credit to interim superintendent Herbert Berg for urging their release to the public.

This is the time for the district to change the way it deals with the public and changes the way it conducts itself personally and professionally. Both the administration and the board has proved the old way doesn’t work, and won’t work.

The school district withheld information on why feds would investigate school construction in Bluffton at the same time it was begging the public for $76 million more, largely for construction.

That was wrong, and the public told the board it was wrong in the historic defeat of that bond referendum. More than seven out of 10 voters said “no.” And it was clear to all that Moss, who lost the public trust initially when his wife was hired to a new, $90,000 central office position in 2015, could not continue to lead this school district.

Release of subpoenas — which are public documents, seeking public information, about a public body — comes as a desperately-needed sign of change.

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