Wednesday, May 14, 2014
The Berkeley County School District school board unanimously voted Tuesday to continue to fund the legal fees of the district's indicted communications director.
Amy Kovach was placed on administrative leave with pay in February after state law enforcement indicted her in regards to her involvement in the district's “Yes for Schools” campaign to garner support for a $198 million bond referendum, which passed in 2012. S.C. Attorney General's Office spokesman Mark Powell said in February that Kovach faces a possible $5,000 fine or one year in prison if she is convicted of the misdemeanor offense.
In April, Kovach pleaded not guilty to the charge.
A Freedom of Information Act request showed that since ethics allegations against the district began 14 months ago until the middle of March, the district has spent $80,000 in legal fees. Three months ago, the board sought the opinion of former Circuit Court judge Victor Rawl on whether or not the district should continue to foot the bill for Kovach's legal fees since her indictment.
School board Chairman Kent Murphy issued a statement after Tuesday's vote to keep paying the fees. He said Rawl worked with University of South Carolina professional ethics professor John P. Freeman, and both determined that Kovach was acting in “good faith” for her job with the district and did not stand to gain from the allegation.
“We have done so based upon the clear and compelling opinions rendered by two of the most prominent members of South Carolina's legal profession,” Murphy said. “They have unequivocally concluded that the district has a legal obligation to provide representation for Ms. Kovach.”
The board met behind closed doors in executive session for 50 minutes at the start of the regularly scheduled school board meeting. The meeting was scheduled an hour earlier than normal starting time at the Moncks Corner boardroom.
After the vote, during citizen comments, one of the standard-bearers claiming ethics violations against the district took the podium.
“I'm not at all surprised (on the vote),” Berkeley County Republican Party Chairman and former school board member Terry Hardesty said. “The public is watching and, essentially, what you have done is that somebody has been indicted for a criminal act, and you're now telling the public that that act was done in good faith.”