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Miller Says Challenge To Ducker Residency A Matter Of Trust And Transparency
10/5/2016 5:42:40 PM

Tom Ducker
By Barney Blakeney

Politics make strange bedfellows. And every now and then one of the fellows gets kicked out of bed.

That seems to be the case as Charleston County School Board members Michael Miller and Rev. Chris Collins shove against North Area representative Tom Ducker.

Miller with complaints Ducker is eligible to continue serving on the board since he changed his address to Dorchester County.

Last week Miller filed a complaint asking state officials to determine if Ducker can continue serving.

Ducker, who has served four years on the board and is not seeking re-election in November bought a house in Dorchester County three years ago. He says he’s been living at both residences since. But in January, for personal reasons, he changed his mailing address to the Dorchester County residence.

Miller says Ducker’s change of address changed his eligibility. If he doesn’t live in the county, he can’t serve on the county school board, Miller maintains. Collins made the same assertion two weeks ago, but did not return phone calls to comment for this story.

The controversy arises as Miller and Collins wind down to the November general election when they hope to retain their seats on the board – Miller in West Ashley and Collins in the North Area. For the most part the fight seems pointless since Ducker leaves the board in about 30 days. His last board meeting will be October 24.

And none of the votes Ducker participated in since January would be affected.

Over the past four years Ducker and Miller, who both are in their first terms on the board, most often supported the same issues. And Ducker even might be considered Collins’ colleague when it came to issues affecting North Area’s predominantly black schools. Miller said his scrutiny of Ducker’s residency is a question of eligibility.

“The same rules that apply to everybody else apply to him,” Miller said of Ducker’s holding the Charleston County sat while living in Dorchester County. “To me the law is clear; you have to live in the district you’re elected to serve. Ducker’s address is in another county and he votes in another county. Voting in Dorchester County means he’s a resident of Dorchester County and can’t serve on the Charleston County School Board.”

Ducker contends Miller has ulterior motives for raising the issue of his residency. While no previous votes will be changed by a negative outcome of any investigation into Ducker’s residency, the board is expected in the next two weeks to look at several policy changes that might shift some responsibilities between the board and the schools superintendent. Ducker said he’ll be around only long enough to look at the policies. The newly elected board in November will be charged with making any changes. But those concerns shouldn’t prompt a move to unseat him, Ducker reasons.

Regardless, Ducker figures he’ll hold on to the seat until his term expires. He said he sought legal and ethical counsel before changing his address and made all board members aware of what he was doing. No one told him he could not serve after the address change so he doesn’t anticipate being unseated. It’s all a media event, he says.

Still Miller is adamant. “If it was me or Collins in that position, we’d be removed,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen as far as the complaint goes, but this is about doing what’s right. It lets board members know we should police ourselves in the interest of trust and transparency.”

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