Retired circuit judge G. Thomas Cooper will listen to a discussion of the residency dispute at 10 a.m. Feb. 15 at Lexington-Richland 5 headquarters, 1020 Dutch Fork Road, Irmo. Board member Kim Murphy is invited to make her case. Cooper subsequently will advise board members on what to do.
Some Richland County officials are ready to accept a border change in the Chapin area, increasing trouble for Lexington-Richland 5 school board member Kim Murphy’s fight against ouster.
School leaders are looking at a boundary change recommended by state geographers that would make Murphy ineligible to remain on the panel as a Richland County representative.
The adjustment would shift her residency just inside adjoining Lexington County.
Long-accepted borders on which Murphy is relying as proof of Richland County residency probably are wrong, officials said this week.
“It appears she lives in Lexington,” Richland County Assessor John Cloyd said.
County election officials say Murphy is eligible to remain in the board post she was elected to in November 2010, based on borders in place for the past century.
But Cloyd now says those borders in Murphy’s neighborhood likely are incorrect.
Modern mapping equipment is discovering minor mistakes in boundaries often based on features set in colonial days more than 250 years ago, officials said.
Adjustments of county lines are “sort of a continuing thing, ” Cloyd said. County officials rely on the expertise of state officials to settle questions that normally happen when a parcel is developed for homes and businesses.
Most are easily fixed without consequence, officials said.
“This is bigger than usual,” Lexington County Assessor Rick Dolan said of the impact on Murphy.
Besides Murphy, one other family would be affected. Taxes on both homes total nearly $6,600, records show.
State officials recommend moving the boundary on the edge of Murphy’s home a few blocks northeast.
The dispute puts the other six board members – most of whom are at odds to Murphy – in a quandary.
Murphy is a political lightning rod in supervision of classrooms for 16,000 students in the Irmo, Chapin, Harbison and Dutch Fork areas. Schools there are rated among the best in South Carolina.
To Murphy’s supporters, she is a crusader against waste and high taxes. To her critics, she is an obstructionist.
Murphy says she is the victim of a vendetta, characterizing the residency fuss as “bickering” without merit and a waste of time.
Other board members say the question of her residency can’t be ignored.
“This is not a situation where one board member is singled out,” board vice chairwoman Beth Burn Watson said, adding “we don’t have a choice” but to review it.
Murphy’s problem led Watson to make sure she lives just inside Lexington County under the new lines. All other board members live, as board chairman Robert Gantt described, “deep inside” the district.
The board brought in retired circuit Judge G. Thomas Cooper of Camden to review Murphy’s residency and recommend what to do. While having the final say, board members could ask for a legal ruling on his findings.
Meanwhile, Cloyd and Dolan await the await the outcome of the battle before moving to make the border change permanent.
“We’re going to wait until all the dust settles and we’re in total agreement on that line,” Cloyd said.
Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.