Residents and school board candidate still concerned about Lexington District Two’s use of “Grey Are
District’s books show B.C. Athletic's account currently around $80,000 in the red
Cayce-West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) – With school board elections looming on November 6th, several residents of Lexington County School District Two are seeking answers on some “grey area” financing that has gone on for about seven years. Most of it has to do with the athletics program and booster clubs that have propped up the football program at B.C. High School. We’re not necessarily referring to stealing, fraud, or saying anything actionably criminal has happened, but when you have one program in the district that’s tens-of-thousands of dollars in the red, it raises some large caution flags. Read this article in its entirety and draw your own conclusions.
In this saga, one person involved bragged that he was given complete control of everything including money intended for athletics at B.C. High School and most money appears to be flowing to football! This story has been done in parts by news organizations before, but if you can make it until the end of this novel where we tried to put it all together, you may begin to think there are some systematic problems that the school district still needs to address and correct.
In just one case we looked at, the B.C. High School Band Parent’s Association (BPA) helped athletics by leasing a high-tech digital video display for them that’s installed at B.C.’s new football stadium. They paid north of $154,000 with a $1.00 buyout in the end. That was done on a written agreement, not a contract, from an organization that was to be supported by a club that no longer even existed. The group called the Bearcat Backers, a now defunct group, was part of an agreement to support the display’s lease. The Backers are gone; however, the over $2,760 per month payment for the display is not and yet somehow, the lease is being paid. Someone is still reimbursing the BPA for those payments, but it appears as if it’s flowed through the district accounts from unspecified sources at different times over the years!
Almost every school has organizations that work together to support the efforts of their children at school-booster clubs. These support many programs like athletics. One former president of a successful one said, “We take the pressure off the coaches. They build good student athletes, they coach. We don’t want them bogged down with how to feed players on Friday night, how to pay for items not budgeted for by the district, or how much is in the checking account. We do all that to take the pressure off the coaches, so they can do their jobs.” Most have constitutions, rules, by-laws, and checks and balances to track money, sometimes big money! Most true booster clubs are Federal 501-C3 registered so your donations are tax exempt. If they are involved in raising funds, they need to register with the SC Secretary of State’s Office as a charitable organization and make annual reports.
At Lexington District Two’s B.C. High School, finances seem to go sideways somewhere about 2012. Things were supposed to be really looking up for them around that time. They hired a new athletic director and head football coach named Rusty Charpia and were about to build their own new football stadium. Charpia has a long football pedigree and was following in his dad’s football legacy and footsteps. The elder Charpia, Reed, left as football coach at Woodland High School to come to Cayce to make sure his son landed on his feet at B.C. Reed Charpia had a distinguished athletic career working at various high schools and even Newberry College. Reed is still hanging around helping out at B.C. now, we’re told.
About the time Rusty Charpia came to B.C., the topic of a large electronic video display or Jumbotron came up for the new stadium’s scoreboard. It kept coming up frequently. Certainly,these are nice, but they are expensive too. A company called Daktronic eventually sold one to B.C. High School at about $154,000. The Jumbotron wasn’t actually bought by the district and how to pay for it was a bit of a bump in the road.
District Two has two high schools, Airport and B.C. As with one’s children, it’s hard to buy a nice play toy for one without buying one for the other. So goes it in District Two and their high schools. It’s okay to buy a need for one school without buying the same for the other, but is a Jumbotron a real need?
Eventually, B.C. athletics did what seems very smart. They picked then B.C. Head Soccer Coach Kevin Heise, who was very well liked and successful at the time and asked him to go to the school board for the money to buy a Jumbotron. If you’re going to ask mom and dad for an expensive doodad, certainly you’d get the favorite son to ask right? B.C. Principal Greg Morton would appear with Heise in front of the school board.The district was in the middle of a building campaign, and it seemed some board members disagreed as to whether they could buy two expensive Jumbotrons, one for each high school. Actually, it’s never clear if Airport even asked for one and a former board member said they weren’t pushing for one. In fact, there were questions about if Airport's scoreboard frame would support a Jumbotron.
These nice boards are often seen in larger, newer high school stadiums. Many aren’t bought by the district that owns the stadium, they’re purchased by booster clubs who organize car washes, bake sales, and bar-b-ques to purchase them. They also sell ads on these to raise some money too; those big, flashy, animated ads you see during the games, and some that ring the Jumbotron. Other permanent ads on the scoreboard are an entirely separate revenue stream for the district, not the booster club. In many cases, booster clubs buy the displays over time, it’s installed on the district’s scoreboard structure, and deeded to the district when paid for. That may be what was supposed to have happened at B.C., but the district’s financial records appear to show that may not be what happened at B.C.
Much of this was brought to light by a man named Wayne McKim and his wife Simone. McKim is running for school board, owns a high-end used car business, and has been very successful at that. He also earned a degree in law but doesn’t practice because he enjoys setting his own hours and spending more time with his family than most attorneys can. To be 100% transparent, he’s is also soccer coach Kevin Heise’s brother-in-law. That may become important later.
McKim knew the school board had discussed the B.C. Jumbotron because he or his wife attend most board meetings and review the minutes. Minutes and financial records are on the district’s website. (see the district's financials on this page by clicking here and going to the menu on the right) McKim knew that this Jumbotron talk came to a head during a meeting of the school board in March, 2014. (see those minutes here) In the section marked New Business, Kevin Heise, the soccer coach, appeared before the board. He presented information from a “Design Team” for the scoreboard at B.C.’s new stadium. Here’s where things get a little fuzzy. In the minutes, the board members first talk about sound system upgrades for the scoreboards at both high schools, not Jumbotrons. One board member voiced her concern that the district was spending too much on athletics when there were so many academic needs. Eventually a motion was made and seconded about scoreboard upgrades and discussion followed. After the motion, then District’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Bill Mabry asked whether the upgrades covered just the sound system or a Jumbotron for B.C. He was assured the Jumbotron was NOT included. Eventually, the school board passed the sound system upgrades alone by a vote of 4-2. The vote didn’t say no to Jumbotron, but it did indicate the district wasn’t willing to pay for it.
Someone wanted that Jumbotron bad and pulled out all the stops to get it. Here’s where things get tangled like spaghetti. Someone began looking at parent organizations at B.C. that could support approximately $33,000 per year in lease payments for a Jumbotron. McKim says he thinks they couldn’t find any. In fact, the only booster club at B.C. High School at the time that had its own Federal 501 C-3 tax-exempt status was the Band Parent’s Association, according to McKim. Remember, this makes your donations tax deductible. All the rest were apparently working under the umbrella of the district’s tax exemption, a measure an ex-board member says was meant to be a short-term bridge until organizations could get their own exemption.
Eventually, someone asked the BPA to sign the lease for the display in that organization’s name. They could NOT put the district on the hook for the debt per the school board, so a new organization called the Brookland-Cayce Athletics Council would promise to “donate” the lease payment to the band parents every month. Before that could happen, the lease funds would be paid for by the B.C.H.S. Athletics Council selling ads on the Jumbotron. They’d also recruit paid members for a new organization called the Bearcat Backers. At some point, a lawyer drew up something labeled a, “Memorandum of Understand” (see that here) that spelled out the agreement. Attorneys we consulted said this is not a contract; it’s not even close. Later, this was taken to First Citizen’s Bank, and they made the lease based on that memorandum (see lease documents here). Strangely, the copy of the lease/loan documents we were supplied show no signatures from anyone at First Citizens bank. Remember, according to McKim and former board members, and the meeting minutes, the district didn’t guarantee this so First Citizen’s must have been sure someone was going to cough up the monthly payments. The band parents would receive their monthly “donation” and then they would make the payments of $2,769.50. Eventually, the lease was signed by a band parent and B.C. High School Principal Greg Morton and the Jumbotron at B.C. was installed. Morton signed, Greg Morton, Principal on the memorandum and Greg Morton, Principal BCHS on the lease documents. (see signature page here) Is the district on the hook if the lease was ever defaulted on? This is one of the “grey areas” and why lawyers can afford second houses at the beach. Problems solved right? That’s not so clear if you read on.
The BCHS Athletics Council was sort of like a booster club for athletics. The district later says they were, “An advisory council.” The long existing B.C.H.S. Athletic Booster Club had been disbanded sometime after Coach Rusty Charpia had been hired. Charpia had complained he needed faster access and more control of the older Athletic Booster Club’s money. In fact, the coach said during a meeting of the original B.C.H.S. Athletics Booster Club in March, 2013, prior to its demise, that he had been told when he was hired there was no booster club. Troy Murphy (a member) spoke up and said he had been a supporter of the booster club for over 11 years. Charpia continued and was recorded in the minutes during the entire encounter. Those minutes quote Charpia saying he was told by his hiring principal that he would have full control of the operations. He also said during that meeting that the booster club money shouldn’t be so hard to get and he shouldn’t have to follow the district accounting processes to access funds. He wanted to change the club’s by-laws and asked about the procedure for doing that. In fact, Charpia said in the meeting’s minutes that then District CFO Bill Mabry told him he could basically do what he wanted (financially?). Mabry never confirmed he said that to the coach. Charpia said he was told when he was hired as long as he didn’t sleep with someone, embezzle money, or have a losing football team in three years, he wouldn’t lose his job. The coach eventually said he would find a way to write the by-laws so that he would have access to things he needed without going through policies that Belinda Wilkinson, the club’s treasurer, had brought from the district. (see a copy of the minutes of the B.C.H.S. Athletics Booster Club March 2013 here)
According to an investigative report by WIS TV in 2013 on this situation, eventually, Coach Charpia began writing checks out of the booster club’s account anyway. He was never included on the signature card at the bank, but that didn’t seem to matter. The club’s by-laws also said that each check needed two signatures on them, but those by-laws didn’t seem to get in the way. Some checks were signed just by Charpia including one he signed for $500 that was made out to cash. At one point, when the club’s treasurer Belinda Wilkinson questioned the then Booster Club’s president about the way money was being spent, Wilkinson said she was told by him, “Not to worry my pretty little head about it, just to write the checks." Someone also pointed out it was the Athletics Booster Club, but most of the money was going toward the football program. That didn’t seem to matter much either. (see WIS TV’s full story here).
Eventually, the B.C. High School Athletics Booster Club was disbanded by the school board on the recommendation of B.C. High School’s Principal Greg Morton. Then, the B.C.H.S. Athletics Council was formed. They’re the group who cut the deal with the band parents to lease the Jumbo. The Athletic Council has since disappeared too, according to the school district. (see that letter)
Coming back to Wayne McKim, the used car salesman/attorney. Eventually, he started noticing a lot of coincidences about the finances regarding B.C. High School and their athletics programs. The school district has their check register on-line for transparency so McKim began to look. One thing that caught his eye was that B.C. High School’s Soccer Athletic Account, and account maintained by Lexington School District Two, had paid the band parents $5,514.22 in the fiscal year that started in July, 2016. (see that document here) Why would the soccer account owe the band parents money? The lion’s share of this money was earned by the soccer program in various ways like a tournament they organized and hosted. A bit was also from gate receipts for soccer games, and the remainder, a small amount, came from other sources. Did the soccer teams just have some extra money laying around, or were they feeling generous? This seems to be money for the soccer program deposited with the district. That amount is really close to the Jumbotron payment times two. Very interesting, isn’t it?
Now you could conclude that if soccer was using the Jumbotron at their games, then they should pay for a part of it. That might be true, but at some point, it appears as if the soccer teams got on the bad side of someone. A person in authority had someone change the locks on the door to the room that controlled the Jumbotron. Only the football coaches got new keys. In fact, that move got District Two sued under Title 9, a Federal law that guarantees fair and equal access to sports for girls in schools. All the lock business is spelled out in that suit. Since football is a boys’ only sport, well….. That suit is still unresolved.
The fiscal year the band parents got a nice donation from the school’s soccer account, popular Soccer Coach Kevin Heise suddenly left under a cloud of controversy. Heise the soccer coach was gone, and the soccer account money was grabbed, and for what? Read on friends, it gets worse.
Later, ad sales may have hit a hard stretch. Starting in October of 2017, payments of $2,761.07 began coming out of the District’s Athletic Fees. That’s strangely close to the $2,769.50 for the Jumbotron payments owed the band parents. It comes out to a difference of $8.43 per month if you do the math. That was still going on in September of 2018. Sadly, someone was a little late with the “donations” to the band parents several times. The Jumbotron lease payments overdrew the Band Parent’s Association account and they were accessed an overdraft fee each time. (see that here). A nice bank officer took pity on them and refunded the fee most times.
Stop worrying District Two property owners, last year’s money for the Jumbotron isn’t coming from taxes, right? The line item that provides the Jumbotron payment now says B.C.H.S.Athletic Participation Fee Account in District Two’s books. That would be the fee that all B.C. High School student athletes’ parents, and parents of middle school athletes who feed into B.C., pay for their children to participate in sports. In 2011/2012, that fee was $75 per high school athlete and $25 per middle school athlete. It's probably more now.
What are these fees for? On January 4, 2018 Director of Student Services Jim Hinton, a long-time and respected district employee, sent an e-mail to a citizen who asked. Hinton replied from his district e-mail account saying, “The athletic fee is used to offset the cost of athletic injury insurance the district purchases for every Lexington Two student that participates in sports. The policy helps with practice and game time injuries.” (See that e-mail here) So, where’s the $2,761.07 per month paid for by those fees going? Is the insurance payment that close to the video display payment? Uncanny coincident some would think. The district explains this away in a letter by saying they were taking season ticket sales receipts and depositing them under the B.C.H.S.Athletic Participation Fee Account and then paying the BPA. They had a CFO that was in charge of all finances. Would that person just randomly select an account to drop these ticket sales into?
Sometime during this whole period of buying a Jumbotron and interesting financial deals, Soccer Coach Kevin Heise got in trouble with the district. He was giving several students a lecture characterized as a “life lesson” where he apparently called two students by name. He later referenced the words "thugs" and "rednecks," and mentioned Coach Charpia’s salary. Heise was placed on administrative leave after years at the school and even taken before the SC State Board of Education. That board reprimanded him and he agreed to undergo anger management and other counseling. Eventually, he left B.C. and quickly went to work at a local charter school in the area coaching. The thing is, how did he really leave? Here too, things aren’t black or white.
Coach Heise got a lawyer when he was put on leave. Eventually, that lawyer wrote him a check for $25,000 out of her escrow account (see a copy of that check here). She said she got that money from the escrow account of Andrea White, an attorney working for District Two. According to Coach Heise and his attorney, the payment was conditional on his resignation from B.C. High School and District Two. McKim says that long-time District Two Attorney Jake Moore said in court, on the record, regarding Coach Hesie’s departure, Lexington School District Two didn’t pay him anything to leave. If they didn’t pay him directly, but one of their attorneys did, why?
Of course, there are laws that allow citizens and the media access to all this information regarding the government’s business; The Freedom of Information Act or FOIA. This law gives the government agency a set period to answer questions and provide most records. It also allows them to charge a reasonable fee for work associated with providing those documents. The problem with that law is, there really aren’t meaningful penalties for governmental bodies that don’t comply with those requests. If they don’t comply, all you can really do is sue them for the records.
Over the past few years, Wayne McKim submitted 18 of these FOIA request; most did include multiple lines in each. McKim admits, that after the school district stonewalled his request and tried to bury him in paperwork that’s meaningless, his requests got broader.
As a rule, School District Two sends FOIA requests to their attorney Jake Moore to review them before they answer. Moore makes sure the information asked for is legally available under the law. In answer to some of McKim’s FOIA request, he says the district partially answered some; about three. When it came to questions about the records for the B.C.H.S. Athletics Council and the Bearcat Backers and their money, the district replied in May 2017 simply, “no cost associated with this.” The rest of McKim’s request would cost $3,670! (see that estimate here) Five months later, in October of 2017, the district finally sent McKim a letter saying the Athletic Association and the Bearcat Backers records weren’t available because there, “Is no Bearcat Booster Club in Lexington District Two.” The letter goes on to say the Bearcat Backers were not a public body, so their records weren’t subject to a FOIA request. (see that letter here) It took them five months to figure that out.
In that same letter, the district says that The Athletic Council no longer exists. It said when the Athletic Council did exist, they had no constitution, bylaws, list of officers, mission statement or any documents filed with the SC Secretary of State. The letter also said that the Council was a group of volunteer parents that served in an advisory capacity and, “The group had no decision-making authority,” the district’s letter said.
The Bearcat Backers were in the same boat. They also had no constitution, bylaws, list of officers, mission statement or any documents filed with the SC Secretary of State’s office. These were the groups that promised to pay the band parents, right? First Citizen’s bank loaned over $154,000 for the Jumbotron to those parents on a promise from two groups that no longer even exist? Who’s making the Jumbotron payments now?
Dr. Bill James and Director of Student Service Jim Hinton eventually met with McKim at the district’s office in an impromptu meeting when he stopped by to pick up some records. James asked McKim what he was trying to find with his voluminous records request. When McKim explained he thought there were problems with athletic finance at B.C., James instructed Hinton to give McKim any relevant records they had already prepared, and he left. This was in the spring of 2017. The documents they provided just made McKim more curious, so he submitted additional requests; again there were a total of 18 in all. Things just sort of deteriorated between McKim and the district after that.
Eventually, McKim says the district’s lead attorney called him in June and said he was harassing District Two, hindering the operations of their offices by asking for all the records, and said the district would sue McKim. He also threatened to issue a trespass warning if he didn’t stop. McKim hung up on him. Less than 24 hours later, District Attorney Jake Moore made good on that threat and sued him on behalf of Lexington County School District Two! He also got the trespass warning preventing him from going on any school property as if he were a criminal. Of course, McKim counter-sued to protect himself; he was NOT going to be bullied! Eventually, the trespass notice was lifted and the suit is still ongoing. Now the SC State’s Insurance Reserve Fund is providing the district with attorneys in the case.
After District Two sued McKim, he filed a motion in court to compel District Two to send him records so he could prepare to defend himself in court. At some point, McKim received notice through attorneys that District Two wanted to mediate the mess. They would set him up with the district’s new CFO Kelly Richardson. Bill Mabry had retired at this point. McKim would sit down with Richardson, she’d show him what he asked to see, and the problem would be solved. Everything would be all worked out. Trouble was, McKim says no one returned his calls requesting the meetings with Richardson. He thinks Richardson wasn’t the problem. He thinks someone above her was blocking the request for a meeting. Were they scrambling trying to get their house in order? Who knows at this point, right? No other records were given to McKim for a while after that. Eventually he did meet with Richardson in August, 2017, but only after the school district had sued him and he had filed that motion to compel. How’d we even get to lawsuits? Read on.
No one really knows who authorized Jake Moore to sue McKim for District Two. Superintendent James has said under oath he didn’t; in fact he was out of the state travelling when this happened. He also said, to his knowledge, the board, the only group able to authorize the suit, hadn’t voted to sue. Did someone tell Moore to sue McKim and if so, who? (see James' sworn deposition here) If they did, were they really authorized to do so; is there a written record of that authorization? Had Moore been given blanket authorization simply because he was on retainer as the district’s attorney? All are very good unanswered questions.
So, how did we get to the lawsuit, that’s another of those great District Two mysteries. Was it a district employee; probably not. Remember James swore under oath he was travelling and hadn’t given the command. He really doesn’t have that authority anyway. Hinton is under James and has always been a good soldier who does what he’s told and loves the students. Above them, there’s the school board. Several former members told us that just a few board members hold a thin majority and they pull the strings when it comes to B.C. According to the people we spoke with, therein lies the problem.
McKim’s counterclaim gave the district a whole new can of worms to deal with. Once the district opened that door by suing, the process of getting records gets easier for McKim through a well-known legal maneuver called discovery. You get to request or “discover” what your accuser has so you can defend yourself. McKim could also subpoena district employees to testify under oath and compel sworn statements, depositions about the Jumbotron shuffle and finances that might aid in his defense. Since the district sued McKim over records request, the records would certainly appear to be key to the case. He does have a right to protect himself and confront his accusers, the entity that sued him.
McKim did get to meet with CFO Kelly Richardson a few times, but eventually Richardson, resigned too. Some, including several former board members we spoke with, think she was a real straight shooter and simply couldn’t take all the money monkey business. The district’s now on its third CFO, a woman named Marty Rawls. She’s cooperating fully, and McKim says that’s what’s really making the district’s power brokers nervous, we're told.
This does seem like it could be solved easily. Someone, anyone, could lay out real records of where the money for the Jumbotron is coming from with deposit slips. Then, lay out the cancelled checks, transfers, or credit card receipts for the sign payments to the band parents. If the school district doesn’t have them, who does and who is paying for the Jumbotron at B.C.’s stadium still? Just where have those payments come from starting at deposit #1 and continuing until the one made last month?
Instead of this, it looks like District Two’s attorney has fought tooth and nail to prevent that financial information from getting into McKim’s hands. He’s stalled the discovery process with a half-baked attempt at mediation and vigorously objected to having to provide financial records from groups that provide that money. We’re talking every trick in the book.
McKim’s legal bills currently exceed $30,000; the district has paid their attorney a flat fee that exceeds $52,500 for the past 15 months, honestly a retainer fee they pay him no matter what,and the State of SC has lawyers involved that are also getting paid. Remember, McKim counterclaimed to defend himself only after being sued by the district. There are a lot of attorneys getting rich, for what?
This could go on and on and it could easily turn into Wayne McKim against the world, but it just doesn’t seem that way if you pour through the filing cabinet of documents we've seen. There are still a lot more questions than answers. Some, like are B.C.’s new sports facilities being rented to outside the district groups like Palmetto Prep Football without following the district policy regarding facilities use? (see the policy here) One outside the district program who rents B.C.’s athletic facilities regularly, recently told The Ledger they go straight through Coach Charpia, not through the district office as policy dictates, when they use the fields and facilities at B.C. Sure, there’s a provision for a waiver for some functions in that policy, but board members who served in the past say the waiver was for case-by-case exceptions, not a blanket for a coach to rent the facilities for the benefit of one school’s athletics and cut the rest of the district out. Athletic rentals fees in District Two are supposed to be shared to cover all athletic facility maintenance expenses district wide. Is that happening? That could be easily answered if the district would throw open the books and explain what’s going on with the money and the Athletic Fund at B.C. High School. Who’s really stopping them from doing that?
Recently, the district’s own books showed that the B.C.H.S.Athletic Account was in the red by about $80,000. I guess no one should complain since the month before, the deficit exceeded $100,000! (see that report here) Who lets a program get that far in the hole without someone screaming about what’s going on? Someone that’s told to look the other way and keep quiet? Airport’s athletics isn’t in the hole and if any other accounts are, it’s by a very small amount. The Ledger could FOIA the information, but we’ve already been provided a stack by McKim. We have copies of lawsuits, depositions, bank statements, minutes, everything but where all the Jumbotron money originates. Us FOIA the material? We don’t want to get bogged down for months, get sued, or be told to stay off district property.
This article is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more it could make a novel. If you’ve made it this far, hooray for you!
Someone who read this before it was published said, “There’s so many questions you’ve raised, but you haven’t provided any answers.” He’s right, we haven’t. Only the school district can and that’s going to take honesty and REAL transparency from the TOP to the bottom. If you pay taxes in District Two, your mind should be racing with questions. If someone, anyone, made a mistake, shouldn’t they just say they goofed. If someone broke the rules, why? Rules are there to keep you out of trouble and to protect you from temptation. If it was a district employee, were they set up by someone who granted them carte blanche by saying do whatever you want as long as the football team is winning?
It looks like the orders to stonewall may be coming from way above the superintendent we’re told. One incumbent board member has decided not to run again this year and we’ve been told it's directly in pure disgust of all this. If the district has nothing to hide, lay all the cards on the table for everyone to see, no aces hidden in your sleeve. It will go a long way in regaining trust.
As for The Ledger, if the district does the right thing, we’ll be the first there to cheer. If they continue to do things that even appear to be fishy, cats start congregating around their offices because of the smell, and people feel like they’re lied to, voters can make a change on November 6th. We could also do a sequel to this story and in that one, we will try to find some answers.
Note: We welcome a response from the school district and they, or any representative of the district, have a standing invitation to appear on Good Morning Lexington County to explain how all of this is being misunderstood.