The laws, which await clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice, overcame a gubernatorial veto last week and are designed to restructure the Fairfield County School Board.
Filed by Fairfield County residents Carnell Murphy Sr. and Lionel Washington, the suit asks first for an injunction to prevent portions of the laws from being implemented before they can achieve clearance.
House bill 4431 establishes an independent finance committee, which would take over budgeting responsibilities from the board. The committee is set to do so by April 1.
The suit names as defendants House Speaker Bobby Harrell, in his official capacity, and Sen. Creighton Coleman and Rep. Boyd Brown, both personally and in their official capacity.
“We’re just two people who thought this bill wasn’t done right,” Murphy said. “It wasn’t vetted right. The intentions might have been good, but intentions don’t matter if it’s not done right. No matter how good your intentions are, they have to fall in line with the law of the land.”
The suit, filed by Orangeburg attorney Glenn Walters, also alleges that Coleman and Brown “used an internal investigation by SACS, which was instigated by their supporters as a subterfuge to justify enacting the laws at issue.”
SACS (the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) is a regional, voluntary accreditation agency, which placed the school district’s accreditation on probation last fall following an October review.
A follow-up review was concluded last week, with a second report due to be released soon.
Additionally, the suit alleges that the ongoing SLED investigation of the school district was drummed up by supporters of Coleman and Brown and that they also used it as justification of the bills.
The suit claims that Coleman and Brown acted “with discriminatory intent and purpose” by enacting the laws, violating both the 14th and 15th amendment rights of Murphy and Washington.
Both claim to have suffered damages in the suit, “in an amount to be established at trial.”
The suit also claims that the laws are unconstitutional because the “local legislative delegation system unconstitutional,” because “they were enacted by the local legislative delegation instead of the complete South Carolina General Assembly,” and because “their enactments constitute ultra vires [beyond the powers] acts of the local legislative delegation and not acts of the complete South Carolina General Assembly as required by the Constitution for the State of South Carolina.”
The suit is being heard by District Court Judge Cameron Currie. Walters has requested a jury trial for the claim against Coleman and Brown.
“It amazes me that anyone would want to maintain the status quo with the way this school board functions,” Coleman said. “Other than that, I cannot comment on pending litigation.”