Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Berkeley County Republican Party Chairman Terry Hardesty has filed a federal lawsuit against school board chairman Kent Murray.
Goings Law Firm announced the suit in a release to the media the afternoon of June 27. Republican activists Linda Riney and Nancy Corbin joined Hardesty in filing the suit.
According to the release, the suit is being filed because of violations “of First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
“This action comes after Kent Murray … unilaterally changed a policy to prevent citizens from criticizing (the school board's) handling of the ethics violations … and gaveled Hardesty down for speaking on issues of great public importance," the release said.
The school district's role in the recent Yes4Schools campaign in favor of a county-wide bond referendum is currently under investigation by SLED.
“I did not want to file this lawsuit, and I personally and publicly asked the Chairman to reconsider his ill-advised decision to prevent public debate and criticism, but I believe the First Amendment is one of our great American values and checks on government, and must be absolutely safeguarded,” Hardesty said.
On Friday afternoon Murray said he had not yet reviewed the complaint and therefore could not comment.
“When the school district receives a lawsuit we consult with attorneys,” Murray said. “I consult with the attorneys and they advise us how to handle it.”
The district is being represented by the law firm Childs and Halligan.
Hardesty said the events after the June 25 school board meeting left him with no choice but to file a complaint.
“They didn’t change their policy,” Hardesty said. “I sent a letter to Dr. Murray and the entire board suggesting very strongly that they should reverse their course on not allowing people to speak.
“It’s a very serious thing to try to shut people up when they’re complaining about their government. Whether they like to hear it not, it’s a right. I strongly suggested they ought to cease doing that . . . they had a very proper opportunity to think about what they were doing, discuss it with their attorneys and change course. They did not.”
Hardesty said he was threatened at the meeting during the public comments portion.
“We’re not going to stop you from speaking but you’re personally responsible,” he said, quoting what Murray said to him. “I saw no other course of action than file a lawsuit and let the courts figure it out.
“To me they changed tactics. Instead of stopping you from speaking we’ll just threaten you. If we can’t use the law properly as it stands up front we’ll just intimidate you. This is extremely stressful for me. Here I am being forced to sue a former colleague for the taxpayers.
“They ought to be focused on educating kids, not trying to cover their behinds.”