Local school officials will take no more action on a complaint lodged by an unnamed school district employee against board member Melvin Stroble.
That employee accused Stroble earlier this year of creating a hostile work environment.
A probe into the matter did not corroborate the complaint and the county school board voted 6-0 at its Tuesday, July 26, meeting to accept the results of an investigation into the matter.
Calling it a “privileged report,” Lancaster County School Board Chairwoman Janice Dabney read the statement about the allegation just after its members came out of a three-hour-long closed-door session where it was discussed.
“The board took the complaint seriously and out of an abundance of caution hired an independent third-party investigator to inquire into the allegation,” Dabney said.
Board member Tyrom Faulkner made the motion and board member Ken Buck seconded the motion before it was voted on. Board member Margaret Gamble wasn’t at the meeting.
Stroble told The Lancaster News on Wednesday, July 27, that the February 2022 complaint had led to some trying times and he is grateful that the entire matter has been cleared up.
“I just want to thank all the individuals in the community who reached out to me personally to check on my family. There were countless people who just prayed with me, be it at the grocery store or when I was fueling my car. They would just stop me and we would pray together,” Stroble said. “All the telephone calls, emails, text messages and words of encouragement were very uplifting.
“Keep in mind this has been a four-month-long process. My wife and I had many sleepless nights where this just sat on me, trying to figure out what I did to created this scenario.”
Dabney said an investigator concluded that a court would find the allegations against Mr. Stroble insufficient to sustain a claim of a hostile work environment under Title VII.
Title VII makes it unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The law applies to private and public colleges and universities, along with all federal, local and state organizations or businesses with more than 15 employees.
In U.S. labor law, a hostile work environment exists when one’s workplace behavior creates a difficult or uncomfortable environment for another person to work in.
“Furthermore the investigation did not substantiate anything illegal, especially in the absence of evidence. At this time, the board finds no other action is needed in regard of the complaint,” Dabney said.
The complaint registered against Stroble stemmed from the Feb. 15 board meeting when he questioned Jennifer White, the district’s chief financial officer, during a monthly financial update.
Sometime after the meeting, a letter was written to Dabney stating that Stroble had created a “hostile work environment.” The district has never confirmed the identity of the employee who filed the complaint.
In April, Stroble suggested to the school board that the complaint filed against him be sent to the S.C. Human Affairs Commission for an investigation.
However, the board voted in early May to hire Eugene Matthews of Richardson, Plowden and Robinson law firm in Columbia to conduct a review of the complaint against Stroble. Matthews specializes in employment and labor law.
Calling the results of the investigation “a matter of consideration for the entire school board,” Stroble said he was not given a copy of Matthews’ report and hasn’t asked for one either.
Stroble said he is ready to move on.
“The process yielded what many of us believed to be true. The board chair stated that the report indicated there was nothing there legally and the claim of a hostile work environment would not satisfy any of the conditions under Title VII,” he said.
“This is a win for all elected officials working to be advocates for their communities, who are seeking to be transparent and take their roles seriously in how they vote on the issues coming before them and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
Follow reporter Greg Summers on Twitter @GregSummersTLN or contact him at 803-339-6869.