April 24, 2014

Wednesday’s weather

Beautiful bright sunshine on Wednesday in South Carolina, highs in the middle and upper 70s.

Overnight, skies will stay clear as lows dip to the middle 40s to lower 50s.

Court hearing in Harrell-Wilson scheduled for next week? Sides disagree

The next round of the fight between one of South Carolina’s most powerful politicians and its chief prosecutor will be held in a Columbia courtroom next week.

SC Attorney Gen. Alan Wilson (File)

SC Attorney Gen. Alan Wilson (File)

At least, according to one of the attorneys in the case. Problem is, the other parties involved are not confirming it.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell (File)

House Speaker Bobby Harrell (File)

It’s the latest chapter in the unusual public fight between House Speaker Bobby Harrell and the man who sent his ethics case to the State Grand Jury — Attorney General Alan Wilson. Harrell’s attorneys are asking a judge to remove Wilson from the case, claiming a conflict of interest due to Wilson’s previous lobbying the House for a new ethics reform law. One of Harrell’s staffers testified last month that Wilson had offered to drop the ethics case in exchange for Harrell’s support of a new Public Integrity Unit, an accusation Wilson denies.

The Charleston Post & Courier first reported a court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, April 30 at 10 a.m., quoting Harrell’s attorney Gedney Howe. However, a clerk of court for the State Grand Jury would not confirm the date to reporters, saying they would be notified when a date is set. Wilson’s spokesman said the Attorney General has not been notified of any hearing.

A complaint filed against Harrell last year by the South Carolina Policy Council claimed the Speaker misused campaign funds and used his position as Speaker of the House of Representatives to benefit a pharmaceutical business he owns. Harrell denies the charges, calling them politically motivated.

Circuit Judge Casey Manning is hearing Harrell’s motion to remove Wilson.

Simpsonville mayor arrested on misconduct charges

Mayor Perry Eichor (Image: Simpsonville.com)

Mayor Perry Eichor (Image: Simpsonville.com)

Simpsonville Mayor Perry Eichor was arrested Tuesday and charged with Misconduct in Office and other charges, according to state police.

The State Law Enforcement Division said it filed the charges against Eichor following an investigation. SLED warrants state that the 78-year-old mayor is charged with Intimidation of Court Officials, Jurors, or Witnesses, as well as Misconduct and Obstruction of Justice.

The warrants are vague on the specifics of accusations against Eichor, but they state he made an “implied threat” to a municipal court employee and attempted to “intimidate the Municipal Judge in the discharge of his duty.” A third warrant states Eichor gave the threat in an effort to “influence the employee’s official actions.”

He was released after posting bond. When reached by phone afterwards, Eichor said he did nothing wrong, but would not give any further comment. He said he will not resign.

The Simpsonville City Council is scheduled to meet Tuesday evening.

Eichor has been involved in a public dispute with the town’s police chief Keith Grounsell, firing the chief last year before the council eventually rehired Grounsell later in the year. Grounsell told FOX Carolina that he was not involved in Eichor’s investigation.


SC Senate to consider role of seniority in teacher layoffs

How important should teacher seniority be? A state Senate bill questions keeping teachers in their jobs partly because they have been teaching longer than others. The group known as StudentsFirst helped Charleston Senator Paul Thurmond write the original bill. The organization was created by former Washington, D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee and pushes for teacher improvement in all states.


Rhee spoke to a SC legislative panel earlier this year,

The Senate Education Committee amended Thurmond’s bill to allow seniority to be a lesser factor, but leaves it on the list. Thurmond says that waters down his intent with the bill:

“The overall interest of really having these types of decisions made on merit and ability rather than seniority is alive and well,” Thurmond told South Carolina Radio Network. “At the end of the day, we are moving the bill forward.”

The teachers advocacy group, the South Carolina Education Association, says districts have already agreed on standards for layoffs. Read previous story.

Lane Wright of the South Carolina team of StudentsFirst says there are suggested guidelines for districts and nothing more.

“The law is silent in South Carolina on this issue and so we feel like good teachers are being threatened any time there is a reduction in student enrollment or budget cuts and staff has to be reduced. Great teachers are at risk,” said Wright

The bill says beginning in the 2016-17 school year, district layoff decisions must first consider teacher effectiveness.

The South Carolina Education Association’s argues that it takes away local control. Wright of Students First said the state sometimes has the last say:

“Nobody is up-in-arms over the requirement that there’s time for the Pledge of Allegiance, or the number of school days in each district is set by the state,” he said. “There is a number of things that the state sets and that everybody is comfortable with because it makes the most sense for students.”

The bill says that other factors besides seniority must be considered in a layoff situation, but teacher compensation may not be a consideration.

The bill’s sponsors expect a fight on the Senate floor.


Tuesday’s weather

Warm for this Tuesday in South Carolina, clouds will be on the increase with a chance for a few showers and thunderstorms later in the day, highs in the lower to mid 80s.

Overnight, there will be a few lingering showers, otherwise partly to mostly cloudy with lows in the Upstate in the mid 47s to the Mid 50s in the Lowcountry.