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Edgefield County, South Carolina

May 26, 2005

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“It’s none of your business,” (James Bibbs) “The hell it ain’t,” (Brad Covar)

web posted May 26, 2005

“It’s none of your business,” (James Bibbs) “The hell it ain’t,” (Brad Covar); two key phrases that pretty much summed up the division on the Edgefield County School Board over redistricting maps for board members.

At issue as well is how the original map was drawn and who drew it. The two most junior, and in fact freshmen members, Vice-chairman Scott Chitty and newcomer James Bibbs Jr, ignored long term sitting member Andy Livingston and inserted a map  that pitted former chairman Brad Covar against Andy Livingston.  Also at issue, then and now, is how the map divides political subdivisions; Edgefield, Trenton, and even Merriwether.

Covar’s issue with Bibbs was simply that the Legislative Delegation made up of Reps, Clyburn and Smith as well as Senator Moore, turned down the map suggested by the new board majority and presented a map they felt was a compromise, one that did not pit any member against the other.

It seems the controlling powers of the school board did something many claim was unethical; sending at least one, and some say two, of the majority to lobby for changes in the map even when requested not to be involved by the delegation.

Well, it may be unethical but, it is not illegal and the South Carolina Ethics Commission will not get involved.

School board member James Bibbs admitted in the school board meeting he indeed went to meet with the delegation to support certain changes and would not say if others went with him, nor would he deny others did go. A move he said he did, “on behalf of the county.” Aside from the legitimate complaint of “disrespect,” as member Covar said such a move showed, we would like to know who appointed or elected James Bibbs Jr. to represent the entire county on a matter that is so important. Moreover, when his admitted involvement (which indeed does ring loudly the bells of unethical actions) resulted in personal political benefit, it is reason for pause.

The Bettis Academy area will be given two members on the board with districts 6 and 3. The Town of Edgefield is divided into four districts (districts 2, 3, 4, and 5) with a black majority in every district in the town. So much for the required “one man one vote” rule.

Merriwether also is split at Woodlawn Road, a midpoint in the community. Chitty, of course being popular with the subdivision population and the country club area as well is assured, for now, a safe bet due to his involvement in the new charter school Fox Creek High School. Basically Chitty’s district drew out 95% of the opposition he faced in the last election, a nice added bonus for him. We are sure that has nothing to do with his joining with the other members questionable actions to make everything a super majority.

Fox Creek, which is on probation for violations to its charter, is up for review soon. We are certain that also has nothing to do with his loyalties either, nor the new board supermajority.

We spent a good deal of time seeking out public opinion on this issue. The majority of the comments we heard cannot be printed. We traveled to Edgefield, Johnston, Trenton, Merriwether and everywhere we went we got a similar general response, we have serious problems with the school board.

Never has anyone seen the newest members of the school board take over control as chairman and vice-chair. Cooks, only a one time term member, and Scott Chitty, who had just been elected, took the reins and control over the board. Stranger still is why with two long term serving members, with decades of experience and one of whom served as chairman, were relegated to insignificance as the new recruits took control of the carrier. Such is not a wise move. Basically, we have baggage handlers flying the plane.

No matter what comes up, it is not going to be pretty.

School Board member Brad Covar is right for his indignation of the involvement of Bibbs, and obviously others, who went to the delegation to lobby for themselves and not for the betterment of the county. The map is politically designed for a certain outcome. That outcome is not for the betterment of the county in our opinion.

Were secret deals made after, or even before, the elections? No one can ever say for sure nor prove such. However, with the recent and upcoming issues and actions it seems there has been a “meeting of the minds” between Cooks, Smith, Talbert, Bibbs, and Chitty. We have to agree with the general public on this one, there are serious problems on the school board.

Dividing and conquering?
March 30, 2005

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