The Citadel Board of Visitors has announced it will hold an executive session today at 2 p.m. to talk about "contractual matters." In government lingo, this means that the meeting will more than likely be closed to the press.
Charlene Gunnels, media relations coordinator for the Citadel, sent out a notice about the meeting Monday afternoon but would not provide details of what was to be discussed. In an e-mail, she wrote, "The reason for the meeting is contractual matters. There will be no vote or action taken as a result of this meeting."
The problem is, under South Carolina's Freedom of Information Act, discussion of "contractual matters" is not an adequate reason for a publicly funded body to close a meeting to the press. Under Section 30-4-70 of the FOIA statutes, the Board of Visitors would have to 1.) vote publicly to enter executive session and 2.) state a specific reason for going into executive session. Valid reasons include "discussion of employment, appointment, compensation, promotion, demotion, discipline, or release of an employee;" discussion with a lawyer protected under attorney-client privilege; discussion of security matters; or investigation of allegations of criminal misconduct.
When presented with the law and asked for a more specific reason, Gunnels responded, "All I know is what is on the agenda. You are welcome to come to the meeting." City Paper intends to do so.
The Board of Visitors is a governing body that consists of 11 graduates of the college. Seven are elected by the South Carolina General Assembly, three are elected by the alumni association, and one is appointed by the governor. Its roles include adopting the college's budget, settings its regulations, and appointing professors.
Gov. Nikki Haley, Adjutant General Robert E. Livingston Jr., and Superintendent of Education Mick Zais are also ex officio members of the Board of Visitors. Haley has criticized the school for its handling of an accusation of sexual misconduct lodged against one of its former summer camp counselors, Louis Neal "Skip" ReVille.
The Citadel and its president, Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa, have taken heat from alumni and the press in recent weeks for failing to tell police about the allegation. ReVille was arrested in Mt. Pleasant on Oct. 28 and now faces nine charges of child sexual abuse. Read more about the Citadel's handling of the case in tomorrow's edition.