HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — A lawyer for Beaufort County warned a high school principal that a newspaper asked for a police report she was mentioned in and told her what she could do to keep the public document secret.
Hilton Head High School principal Amanda O’Nan ended up filing an anonymous request to have release of the report blocked. A judge released a redacted report before relenting to The Island Packet of Hilton Head’s argument that the Freedom of Information Act required the entire document be released.
The report involved a possible relationship with O’Nan and a Beaufort County deputy. O’Nan’s husband said the deputy was using his police car to meet his wife at the school for the affair. O’Nan said their relationship was professional only.
The deputy resigned when confronted with allegations he ran the license plate without permission. The newspaper requested any reports of misconduct against the officer, and assistant Beaufort County attorney Allison Coppage wrote a lawyer representing O’Nan a note about the paper seeking the information and giving the exact deadline the report would be released unless someone intervened, according to documents obtained by The Island Packet of Hilton Head (http://bit.ly/2c0fOSz ).
County attorney Tom Keaveny says O’Nan wasn’t given special treatment, but can’t remember officials warning someone before. When asked if he would give a similar warning to someone who wasn’t a public figure, Keaveny declined to answer, calling the question “a very vague hypothetical.”
Former South Carolina Press Association attorney Jay Bender said the letter invited and encouraged “a citizen to go to court to allow the (the county and Sheriff’s Office) to disregard its obligations” under state FOIA laws.
Information from: The Island Packet, http://www.islandpacket.com