WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Midlands school district is suing a Lexington County man for filing too many public records requests.
However, the district says those Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests elevated to a level of harassment.
Documents filed in the Lexington County Courthouse show Wayne McKim, a small business owner in Lexington County, filed 18 requests with Lexington County School District Two between Feb. 27 and June 2 of this year.
"On or about mid-February 2017, was made aware of numerous possible breaches of public trust by Brookland-Cayce High School," McKim's attorney wrote.
McKim's requests ask for information about district audits, the purchase of a stadium scoreboard at Brookland-Cayce High School, data on athletes who have transferred to Brookland-Cayce, and more.
Now, the district is suing McKim. McKim has also been placed on trespass notice for all premises owned by Lexington School District Two at the advice of the school district's attorney, Jake Moore.
Moore said the district filed a suit because the 18 public records requests were too onerous, too voluminous, and possibly an abuse of the system.
"...has become obsessed with the School District and has engaged in serious activities intended to abuse the public information system and to harass and interfere with the operation of the School," Moore wrote in the lawsuit. "Additionally, the mode of operation which has been used has been intimidating and threatening should be ordered to stop."
Moore said McKim has also refused to pay the district to procure some of the information.
Records show the district has fulfilled at least four of McKim's requests for public info. However, it wants him to pay a fee of about $5,400 before it gives him 13 other documents.
McKim and his attorney don't believe that fee is reasonable. However, Moore said the steep price is necessary because it's possible the district would need to hire someone to fulfill the lengthy, time-consuming request.
Meanwhile, a counterclaim by McKim's attorney tells a different story.
"...has intentionally refused to provide public records," McKim's attorney, George Taylor, wrote. "LSD2 has acted in bad faith so as to avoid the disclosure of information that will expose its wrongdoings."
WIS asked Taylor what kind of chilling effect, if any, this case might create.
"It sends the message that if they don't want to give you the records, they're not going to give you the records, and they're going to make you go hire a lawyer and defend yourself in court," he said. "I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen anyone sued for asking for records that they're legally entitled to."
Taylor said the suit and trespass notice have affected McKim personally. He can't drop off or pick up three of his children from school. He can't visit his wife, who's a district employee, either.
Friday morning, Moore said the district has nothing to hide. Moore said if a judge rules in McKim's favor, the district will release the information if a fee for that information is paid. But, until a judge weighs in, he said the district won't act further.
"Of course, quite frankly, we'd like to respond. The documents are going to be incredibly boring. And the documents are not going to show any form of wrongdoing because there's been none," said Moore.
Meanwhile, McKim and his attorney say they'll keep fighting to find that out for themselves.
Around Brookland-Cayce High School and beyond, there have been some hard feelings against a football coach and the Lexington Two school district ever since the district parted ways with the high school's soccer coach, Kevin Heise. Numerous allegations against the district have sprung up as that ordeal played out.
McKim said he didn't have an ax to grind when he started investigating some of those claims through FOIA.