COLUMBIA, SC — Lexington-Richland 5 school board member Kim Murphy is seeking to ensure she lives in Richland County as required for her to be on the panel.
Supporters want to give Murphy and one other neighbor the choice of keeping long-accepted county borders in the Chapin area that state geographers say wrongly put their homes in Richland County.
Petitions allowing them to undertake a rarely-used county boundary adjustment allowed by state law could be filed as soon as today with Lexington County officials.
The strategy is aimed at defusing conflict on her residency that could lead to her ouster as one of seven school board members.
“We don’t concede she lives outside Richland County as others say, but doing it this way solves any problem,” said her lawyer, Todd Kincannon.
State officials say Murphy lives just inside adjoining Lexington County, making her ineligible to be one of three Richland County members on the board.
That decision came after other board members asked state officials to look at the lines.
Murphy allies hope the new maneuver freezes the push to oust her for alleged nonresidency.
The confusion is not her fault since Richland County lines put her home just inside their border, Kincannon said.
“There’s no reason for the throw-Kim-Murphy-off-the-board effort to continue,” he said. “Any further push and fighting on this is a waste of time and taxpayers’ money.”
Efforts to reach board chairman Robert Gantt and vice-chairwoman Beth Burn Watson were unsuccessful Tuesday.
At the least, the maneuver puts Murphy in position to reclaim the seat should she be removed.
A vacancy created by her ouster would lead to a ballot this summer to fill the remaining 18 months of the term to which she was elected in November 2010.
That gives Murphy time to settle the boundary dispute and run anew for the post, Kincannon said.
The petitions give her the opportunity to retain lines that put her home just inside Richland County.
It leads to a canvass of residents in the affected area on whether they favor the borders proposed.
Murphy and her neighbor must pay for property surveys setting the proposed borders and other costs that Kincannon said are likely to total a few thousand dollars.
The final step is legislative approval of new boundaries if approved by the landowners affected, an automatic step.
Murphy’s effort comes as other board members await a recommendation from retired circuit judge G. Thomas Cooper of Camden on whether to proceed with ouster. He was hired to review the situation, but the school board has the final say.
Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.