Jasper County school board member ejected from meeting

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Jasper County school board member ejected from meeting

By RACHEL HEATON
rheaton@beaufortgazette.com
Published Monday, June 11, 2012   |  535 Words  |  

A Jasper County school board member was ejected from Monday's meeting for being out of order during a debate on consolidating Ridgeland and Hardeeville schools.

Board member Randy Horton had been warned by the board's chairwoman in a letter Friday that he would be ejected by police if he tried again to bring up allegations of financial mismanagement after the public-comment section of meetings.

Horton, however, did not seek to talk during public comments. But he did bring up some of his other concerns during the consolidation debate.

When Horton shouted over board Chairwoman Kathleen Snooks, a Hardeeville police officer motioned toward him. Horton got up and walked toward the officer. The officer opened the door and Horton left. He was not arrested.

He was later called by phone while he was in another room in the building to get his vote on consolidation.

According to the head of the S.C. School Board Association, this could be the first time in the state a school board member has been ejected by police from a meeting.

"To my knowledge it has never happened," Paul Krohne said. "I've been in the state for around 12 years. I've heard of members of the public being deemed disruptive, but never members of the board."

On Friday, Horton had received a letter from Snooks informing him that his attempts to speak during public-comments sections of meetings violate board policy.

Just before Monday's meeting, Horton said he was unsure whether he'd try again to speak during public comments.

"They sort of have me scared about doing it," he said.

Horton suspects wrongdoing by district administration. After failing to persuade Snooks to add a discussion of the topic to the agenda, he tried to speak during public-comment periods May 29 and Wednesday. He was not called upon to speak at either meeting, and when he tried to speak anyway, Snooks abruptly ended the meetings.

Snooks' letter to Horton cites board policy allowing visitors to address the board. She writes that visitors are defined as "members of the public who are attending board meetings" and that board members cannot speak during that time.

The letter also stated that if Horton made a proper request to have his concerns on the agenda -- which Horton said he has tried in previous months -- it would be added to the agenda for a meeting sometime this month.

Time for Horton's comments was placed on an amended agenda Monday, but Horton said he hadn't asked for it and was not prepared to speak.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content:

Jasper schools official fights to be heard by his board; June 9, 2012

Dispute over Jasper County school consolidation plan reignites; June 6, 2012

Jasper County School District considers school consolidation plans; May 30, 2012