- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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Oct. 22

The Island Packet of Hilton Head Island on free speech in democracy in the context of a school board:

Something is terribly wrong when a school board member is told she cannot speak publicly about the school superintendent - unless, apparently, it is glowing puffery.

That’s what happened to Beaufort County Board of Education member JoAnn Orischak of Hilton Head Island.

She said Superintendent Jeff Moss should resign - and quickly felt the steel-toed boot of a bullying hierarchy that would make any of the world’s dictators proud.

Mind you, this was not a personal attack. It was not a call for Moss to be fired. It was not an implied statement on behalf of the board. It was well-reasoned, fair comment by an elected official regarding a top public official’s job performance.

She is free to say that. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees her free speech. And the Constitution trumps any impediments thrown out to muzzle her speech.

Unfortunately, Orischak was attacked for exercising her right. The board hired an attorney who wrote up two statements chastising Orischak on behalf of the board. The statement adopted by the board said it “very much regrets” a publicly-elected leader making a public statement about a public school superintendent.

Their statement tosses out threatening language about a publicly-elected leader’s public statements somehow violating an implied covenant of good faith in the superintendent’s contract.

In other words: Shut up or we’ll sue you.

It is at the very least chilling to free speech. It is a bullying tactic that is unseemly and very discouraging.

Not only is a school board member free to comment on the job performance of the top education official in the county, it is an obligation. The public expects and needs to know where board members stand on issues, and the job performance of the superintendent is one of its most important issues.

Our board instead talked about the superintendent’s job performance for eight hours over two days - in secret.

The result was a 6-4 vote to give Moss a “satisfactory” annual evaluation and a $39,600 contribution to his annuity.

This is not the first time the board majority has ganged up on Orischak, once before approving a letter of rebuke from the chairman.

It’s sad when, in a democracy, one faces such hardship and abuse for exercising free speech. In fact, it’s scary. And it needs to go away.

Online: http://www.islandpacket.com/

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Oct. 25

The Post and Courier of Charleston on proposed state legislation on immigration law compliance:

There are no so-called sanctuary cities in South Carolina. In fact, existing state law prevents local governments from undermining federal immigration law, and South Carolina is one of just six states that require law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of prisoners.

In other words, the state is far from a “sanctuary,” and there is little if any evidence to suggest that any particular county or municipality has refused to comply with state or federal immigration laws.

But that hasn’t stopped Gov. Henry McMaster from dragging out a non-issue in an attempt to score political points this week, particularly with voters who support President Donald Trump. Mr. Trump, who carried the state in the 2016 election, recently gave his support to Mr. McMaster’s campaign for governor.

Mr. McMaster announced his support on Monday for proposed legislation that would require local law enforcement to somehow prove that they are complying with state and federal immigration law. The mechanism could be as simple as signing a document under oath.

Even if actually certifying compliance doesn’t involve a lot of red tape and extra expense, it would be unnecessary given the absence of any evidence to suggest that there are sanctuary cities flourishing in the Palmetto State.

Mr. Trump, too, has waged a war of words against sanctuary cities as president, threatening to cut off federal funds for those who stymie the efforts of federal immigration officers.

And to a certain extent, he is right to do so. Broadly speaking, sanctuary cities refuse to hand over information on immigration status to federal authorities when a person is detained or investigated by law enforcement.

In some cases, that means helping shelter criminals from deportation. This latest effort at nullifying federal law should be strongly discouraged - which the administration is prepared to do, if necessary, by cutting off federal funds.

But Mr. McMaster and Mr. Trump should also be wary of endangering public safety. Immigrants, including those here illegally, should feel that they can contact and cooperate with law enforcement officers as necessary without fear of deportation or harassment. Otherwise, they risk becoming the victims of crimes or hampering criminal investigations.

Of course, much of this would be moot if Congress would finally address immigration reform in a way that would give the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally a way to move forward out of the shadows.

The nation’s existing immigration laws leave those immigrants and their broader communities at risk. They reward rule-breaking and subject those who follow the law to an onerous and uncertain bureaucracy. Simply put, the system is broken.

If Mr. McMaster truly cares about enforcing the law and keeping people safe, he should lend his support to comprehensive immigration reform rather than pursuing a needlessly draconian solution to a problem that almost assuredly doesn’t exist in South Carolina.

Mr. Trump’s support for meaningful reform would be welcome as well.

The nation - and South Carolina - needs an immigration system that works, not another costly, meaningless layer of bureaucracy. We need reform, not grandstanding.

Online: http://www.postandcourier.com/

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Oct. 24

The Index-Journal of Greenwood on reporting on white-collar crime:

“Shoot the messenger” is but one response we are getting about our reporting of yet another white-collar crime in Greenwood County. Shame on the newspaper for delving into such details of the accused’s case and lifestyle after the arrest.

Others have justified the actions of the accused, nearly painting her as a modern-day Robin Hood; after all, the twisted logic goes, Self Regional Healthcare gets loads of money from patients.

There is a detectable pattern in responses to this newspaper’s crime reporting that gives us pause to consider whether “white-collar crime” has a deeper connotation than its superficial definition. And, given the era when the term was reportedly coined, we suspect we are correct in drawing a parallel to race.

Wikipedia has this to say: “White-collar crime refers to financially motivated nonviolent crime committed by business and government professionals. Within criminology, it was first defined by sociologist Edwin Sutherland in 1939 as ‘a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.’”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website contains the following definition: “Reportedly coined in 1939, the term white-collar crime is now synonymous with the full range of frauds committed by business and government professionals. These crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust and are not dependent on the application or threat of physical force or violence. The motivation behind these crimes is financial - to obtain or avoid losing money, property, or services or to secure a personal or business advantage.”

So, what’s the takeaway, again based on some of the commentary we have received on our reporting?

One, it’s OK to report criminal activity in our coverage area, but certain people of certain status ought to be treated more delicately - if reported on at all. “He’s from a good family,” for example, can be heard as if to say that if two people commit the same crime, one’s family background is less important than another’s.

Two, maybe it’s not OK to take money from Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office accounts or from Lander University students, but it’s OK to take it from a hospital because health care costs are so high.

We remain convinced that those who commit these white-collar crimes ought to have to make reparations, ought to have to at least serve some time behind bars and ought not have their cases shone in a dimmer light.

Don’t blame the media for reporting the crime and don’t come up with some sort of twisted rationale for kid-glove treatment of some over others. Equally, don’t conjure up a twisted rationale for one case of theft over another.

Online: http://www.indexjournal.com/

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