RH school board still under fire

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 17, 2005

Almost everybody wants to oust somebody in the Rock Hill School District.

Three Rock Hill School Board Members are still attempting to remove long-time Superintendent Lloyd Evans. Meanwhile, the Citizens Against Poor Spending have not given up on bouncing those same board members.

The Citizens, a group of more than 20 Rock Hill residents, gathered approximately 600 signatures on petitions seeking the removal of board members Lavetta Sites, Paul Johnson and Wanda Jenkins.

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This action was motivated by that trio's attempt to remove Evans. The dispute sparked a lawsuit over the validity of Evans' contract. Evans won the court battle earlier this month but the war isn't over since the board appealed the results.

Likewise, the citizens group plans to hold its course by filing the petitions that have been delivered to the group's attorneys.

"The numbers just kept growing. It took no more than two weeks to compile that," said Rich Donohue, the Citizens group president and former school board member. "Once it got started, people kept contacting us. I only got one phone call asking why we wanted to remove the board members."

State law allows elected officials to be removed by petition to a court of law. The law mandates that such petitions be signed by 15 percent of total number of school district voters who cast a ballot in the last governor's election - in this case 316 signatures.

The petitions were given to the attorneys in December and the citizens are taking a wait-and-see approach. The group has hired Canton attorney Ronald G. Macala to help with their effort to remove the board members. Macala was involved in the September removal of three board members in Madison County.

Ultimately, a judge will have to decide if the charges merit the removal of the board members based on the grounds outlined in the petition.

Two of the board members challenged him to file the petition but Donohue said nothing has changed in his reasons for wanting to have the group removed.

The petition alleges that Sites, Jenkins and Johnson are guilty of malfeasance of office for three reasons:

— Transferring daily authority of the district over to the county board after voting in August to remove Evans from office.

— Violating open meetings laws by entering into executive sessions without stating proper cause and allegedly meeting privately at Sites' house.

— Refusing to sign minutes of some board meetings.

Sites said none of the charges have any merit and that she told Donohue that as well.

"(The petition) comes down to those three issues," Sites said. "But those three issues have nothing to do with the law that allows you to remove board members."

"My main concern is, I have been told by people in district, that (the residents) are not being informed that once they sign they become part of a lawsuit that could result in them having to testify as to why they want that person removed. It is not just a petition, it is a lawsuit. I found that out from the elections board."

Sites said she simply wants to return the emphasis to the most important ingredient within the district - the children.

"We have got books to buy and curriculum to tackle," she said. "We have got to get back on board with the education. That is our focus."

At least on this, Donohue said they agree.

But how they will get there will be up to the courts to decide.

When it will go in front of a judge and when he will make a decision remains the big unknown.