Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – Investigators with the Lexington Police Department have closed an investigation into charges that Lexington School District One board member Jada Garris harassed and threatened fellow board member Mike Anderson recently. The initial police incident report was taken on June 8, 2020. The threats apparently occurred at the Lexington School District One’s main office complex on Tarra Springs Road in Lexington while the harassment was over the phone.
According to Detective Allewine of the Lexington Police Department, the investigator assigned the case, he found, “No criminal action,” and was closing the case. The report was being considered documentation that the accusations were made by Anderson.
Garris said when she first received word that a report had been made and the case was opened, she knew what its outcome would be. Garris said that although she was never concerned about the accusation herself, a detective contacting her seriously scared one of her children who thought her mom was going to jail.
Garris, who is 5 feet 4-inches-tall and tips the scales at about 150 pounds, said it’s ridiculous to think that she would scare someone, make threats, or harass anyone. She calls herself a representative of the people and the students. She says this reputation has brought many angry glares and remarks from other board members, but it really doesn’t bother her. Because she asks lots of questions and tries to educate herself fully on any topic the board discusses, other members of the board apparently get upset according to Garris. She said she doesn't feel it’s unreasonable to ask questions as a board member, a parent of school age children, or a taxpayer.
At one past meeting, Lexington County Councilman Darrell Hudson openly rebuked the leaders of the board when they chided Garris for asking questions. Hudson said in a recent interview, “The things that Jada ask are important and she’s there to ask those questions for the people who elected her but can’t. To think Jada threatened or scared anyone makes me want to fall in the floor and laugh!”
According to Mike Anderson’s statement, he and Garris had been at a meeting of the board where they were working on the budget for the 2020/2021 school year. That meeting started the chain of events that led up to his complaint.
Apparently during that meeting, both Dr. Kyle Guyton, another board member, and Garris had some questions regarding the district's budget. After Guyton had finished with his questions, Garris began going through her list for the board and administrative team. At some point, Anderson believed that Garris was asking a question that had already been answered and he laughed loud enough for Garris and the other people in the room to hear it. After that meeting was over, Anderson left the property quickly but said that Garris began calling him and leaving phone messages. Each time, she asked what he had laughed about. He never took or returned any of her calls to answer her question.
On June 8, 2020, the board held another meeting on Tarra Springs Road. According to the police report made by Anderson, before that meeting began, “The Subject (Garris) approached him (Anderson) very aggressively with her fist closed and demanded to know why he (Anderson) was not answering her calls and [sic] reason why he had laughed the week prior.” Anderson told the reporting officer that he told Garris to walk away and signaled with his hand for her to do that. At that point, Garris did turn and begin walking away but stopped, turned back toward Anderson, looked at him and said, “I’ll just have someone else come ask you what was so funny then!” Anderson said in the report that he took that to be a threat and felt as if he were unsafe. He said not only did he want the incident documented, but also wished to press charges against Garris.
Hopefully, now that the detective has said he's found nothing to support Anderson's complaint, the closing of this investigation will settle this rift between these two leaders of Lexington County’s largest school district. The board of trustees of the district must work together as a team, and both Garris and Anderson are integral to that team. To get the budget finished and
passed by July 1, both will have to ignore any differences in each other’s personalities or management styles. If Ms. Garris’ questions are many and meetings go long, district’s resident should at least be assured that the district's multi-million dollar budget has been closely reviewed by the people they elected to represent them.