Richland 1 unlawfully conducted public business behind closed doors, court rules

A court has ruled Richland 1 unlawfully conducted public business behind closed doors.

The incident occurred Aug. 13 when board members read and decided how to respond to a letter from a parent in executive session, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Sept. 4.

The letter, sent by parent Cody Smith, regarded the district expanding its English as a Second Language, or ESL, program. The program’s expansion required some students to transfer from A.C. Moore Elementary School to schools for which they were zoned, but parents of students already enrolled in A.C. Moore wanted to keep them there, according to a previous article from The State.

Executive session is when board members meet behind closed doors at a public meeting. No minutes are taken. Public officials are only allowed to meet in executive session to discuss contracts, personnel matters, security issues, possible criminal matters or receive legal advice, according to the Municipal Association of South Carolina.

“When executive session is conducted under appropriate circumstances, which is not the case here, no action can be taken in executive session on the matter which is being discussed in executive session,” Fifth Circuit Court Judge Robert Hood wrote in the judgment.

The judge ordered the district to pay $4,566.82 to the plaintiff, Nancy Miramonti, for attorney’s fees. Miramonti was represented by Jonathan Milling of the Milling Law Firm in Columbia.

The district will also have to consider the letter at a public meeting, the order said.

Richland 1’s board will meet next Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. at 1616 Richland St. in Columbia, according to the district’s website.

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