COMMENTARY BY MIKE CUBELO
Normally, you hear about the fallen "angels" of the Christian Coalition when their wings are clipped by some sinful sexual revalation. In Greenville, the wings of these angels tend to get tangled in the greedy vines of expense accounts and insurance fraud rather than in the webs of sexual passion. Why? Although I could not confirm this, it may be that there's more money than sex in Greenville.
Here are two tales of Christian Coalition politicians tempted by money.
For two years, the Greenville County School Board has been blessed with a working majority of Christian Coalition trustees, who looked over the public schools and found them lacking. They believed they could improve discipline by dressing students in uniforms and then paddling them.
Sherry Pace was the most vocal. But she had a temper. In the middle of one school board meeting, she threw down her microphone and walked out yelling, "I'm outta' here."
School Board Chairman Joe Dill, who told a local radio station that he was selected by God to "change the pulbic school system," agreed with Pace on paddling. He said, "Paddling is a quick way to teach a child that [punishment] is going to burn."
Since the Christian Coalition majority believe that local principals and the district superintendent are responsible for the lack of discipline in the schools, they passed a policy called "zero tolerance."
This policy put school board trustees in charge of handling the student expulsion process by themselves. With the implementation of stricter standards, set by the school board, there were a record number of expulsions last year of nearly 300 students. The year before the policy was implemented, there were 51 expulsions.
Pace was indicted for insurance fraud regarding her car rental business. She was accused of submitting a claim on a stolen car that she knew was recovered. When "zero-tolerance" was shown by Gov. Beasley in suspending her from the school board, Pace lost her temper. She "damned" the governor and demanded special preference for a speedy trial to prove her innocence.
Across town at the Greenville County Council, council member Bob Leach (another Christian Coalition angel) found himself at the center of a controversy. He was accused of making too many calls to his mother on his car phone, calls subsidized by taxpayers' money.
A few weeks later, a review of the phone expenses of all the Council members revealed that the only phone line in Leach's home has been paid with tax money since 1988.
For the past two-and-a-half years, Leach had not reimbursed taxpayers for the personal calls made from his home, saying that he was never billed.
But, according to Leach's expense accounts, he made sure that he billed the county each month for a fixed mileage amount without providing any details about the trips he took.
Although Leach plans to leave the County Council in January, he attended a county association convention in Hilton Head in July at taxpayers' expense. Leach's total expenses to the county for the year are almost $8,000. His annual salary is $13,200, making his one of the highest expense accounts on County Council.
Leach has remained quiet but with his Christian Coalition wings intact. He's hoping that they carry him to the State House next year.