D55 "Yes" under investigation - reports
BREAKING NEWS: A resounding "No" at the polls Tuesday has been followed by reports that "Yes" vote organizers are going to be under state investigation.
One report said SLED will open an investigation at the request of 8th Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo. Another report (WSPA) said State Rep. Mike Pitts is taking issues he wants investigated to the Attorney General. Both Stumbo and Pitts are Republicans, and Laurens County Republican Party and anti-tax Tea Party offficials were prominent in getting a $109M School Bond Referendum shot down by voters - the vote against was 6,559 to 1,961.
District 55 officials have not said if they will try again.
Reports said the investigations will center on whether offers of fish sandwiches to voters constituted "buying votes," and whether D55 employees were "intimidated" to support the referendum, which would have financed construction of a new Laurens District High School and repaired other schools. Pitts solicited reports of intimidation through a newspaper ad, and said he received 2 reports of business owners being threatened with a loss of D55 business, unless they supported the referendum. Pitts assured people reporting intimidation that their identities would be protected.
D55 Superintendent Dr. Stephen Peters said now is the time to heal "wounds of division" caused by the referendum. But opponents said the 6 to 1 majority by which the bond issue was defeated shows not "division" but unity against much higher taxes and a school construction plan that favored some and left others too much in the dark. Hickory Tavern, Gray Court and Greenpond voted about 7 to 1 against the referendum because of concerns about centralizing D55's middle schools, perhaps to the current LDHS (1972) site that district officials said is too small for a projected 2,000 high school students. Greenville County is building a new Fountain Inn high school, to take overcrowding pressure off Hillcrest High School in fast-growing Simpsonville and Clinton-Joanna District 56 opened a new Clinton High in 2010, and converted the former high school (1956) into one middle school for the district.