Lexington-Richland 5 school board ousts Murphy

tflach@thestate.comMarch 19, 2013 

Kim Murphy

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    • Murphy plans to go to court to challenge her ouster. • She is working toward adjusting county lines to assure her home is in Richland County through petitions and a canvass of herself and adjoining homeowners. • If her home is re-established in Richland County soon enough, she would be eligible to seek re-election to the post from which she was removed. The earliest that ballot can occur is June 18??/The ballot may occur in late June unless delayed by her legal challenge.

Kim Murphy plans to go to court shortly seeking to reclaim the post on the Lexington-Richland 5 school board that she lost Tuesday.

She promised that step after the other six board members ousted her from the panel to which she was elected to in 2010 after belated discovery that she doesn’t live in Richland County as required.

Her removal is “bullies at their best,” she said.

Murphy, a Tea Party favorite, promised to continue her crusade against what she considers overspending and mismanagement of classrooms with 16,000 pupils in Chapin, Irmo, Dutch Fork, Harbison and St. Andrews that are among the best in South Carolina.

“I’ll be in the front row at meetings asking questions that a lot of my constituents want to know the answers to,” she said.

But most of other six board members say her ouster is necessary even though it is viewed by conservative groups as a political vendetta.

“Ms. Murphy and others have attempted to shape this issue as a personal action — nothing could be further from the truth,” board chairman Robert Gantt said. “Our actions center on the simple truth that she does not live in the county which was elected to represent, a simple but essential requirement.”

The moves comes after an outside review made public Monday recommended Murphy’s removal.

Political foes raised questions last fall about the location of her home in the Chapin area after she lost a battle that stalled renovation of Chapin High for 18 months.

State geographers asked by the board to look into the situation concluded her home is just inside Lexington County, not Richland County as commonly thought.

Murphy is ineligible to remain in the post even though she is the victim of a misunderstanding by county officials on the location of county borders, a report by retired Circuit Judge G. Thomas Cooper of Camden said.

The ouster came after a last-minute attempt by Murphy to thwart it after she boycotted previous hearings.

Todd Kincannon, her attorney, warned board members that removal is overstepping their authority and made several objections to the way Cooper’s review proceeded.

Kincannon appealed for Murphy to be allowed to remain in the post, saying confusion over where she lives is “through no fault of her own” but due to mistakes by county officials.

Board member Ed White dismissed those complaints as “more political than legal.”

Kincannon also urged board members – most of whom are often at odds with Murphy – to put aside past disputes.

“It’s time for everybody in Lexington-Richland 5 to start trying to get along,” he said.

But other board members said her refusal to step down was disruptive, with Gantt describing it as a “distraction.”

Murphy was the only board member to vote against her ouster.

The last 18 months of her term will be filled at an election yet to be set – but possibly as soon as late June – unless Murphy succeeds in blocking that as part of her challenge to the ouster.

Ironically, she may end up being eligible to run to fill the vacancy.

She is starting a rarely-used procedure that allows homeowners whose land is divided by county borders to move all of their tract into one, with her goal to make sure her residence is in Richland County.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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