By Paul Gable
The Bucksport Marina issue arising from a racial incident over Memorial Day Weekend that resulted in personal injury, racial epithets and serious concern from community members appears about to be moving toward resolution.
A quick review of the incident:
On May 28, 2017, Curtis Hendrix was working for the “Waccamaw Getaway Music Festival” hosted by the restaurant on the Bucksport Marina property. One of his duties was to shuttle visitors to the festival to their cars or campsite at the RV resort on the marina property.
While performing those duties, a cart in which Hendrix was riding was forced off the road and into a ditch by Jeffrey Weeks. Weeks was operating the marina and RV resort under a sub-lease with E.D. LLC, the lessee of the marina, resort and restaurant property. E.D. LLC was leasing the property from Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority.
After forcing the cart off the road, Weeks stopped his vehicle and began yelling at the occupants of the cart, using racial epithets such as “f—–g niggers”, according to the police report of the incident.
According to several sources familiar with various talks and negotiations among involved and interested parties over the last several weeks, neither E.D. LLC owner Ed Waters nor Weeks will be returning to the marina property.
According to those sources, the final details of a termination agreement between GSWSA and E.D. LLC are in the works and new operators will be taking over the marina and RV resort businesses.
Removing both from any association with GSWSA is the only proper solution to the act perpetrated by Weeks over Memorial Day Weekend.
However, it took approximately four months between the incident and the final termination. When I first spoke to Fred Richardson, CEO of GSWSA, about the incident, it seemed he wanted to do the right thing, but attorneys advising GSWSA were urging a wait and see approach because Weeks was only charged with a crime, not convicted. Additionally, there were some contractual considerations with the lease between Waters and GSWSA.
The attorneys’, apparently, weren’t considering the potential harm to the GSWSA image in the community or viewing the seriousness of the incident properly.
In early July, Richardson told Waters that ‘Weeks had to go.’ Waters responded, “Then, we’ll both go,” according to Richardson.
That should have settled the matter, but, again attorneys and their opinions got involved with what should have been a straightforward decision.
A diverse group of community leaders met with Richardson last week regarding the incident. The opinion of the group was that neither Waters nor Weeks should be allowed to have any further connection with the Bucksport Marina or associated properties since the Memorial Day Weekend incident was so racially charged and the marina is owned by a public agency.
“I believe Fred Richardson is a good man and that he was trying to do the right thing,” said Bennie Swans, one member of the group. “As community leaders it was necessary for us to make him aware of the deep concern the community has about an incident of this kind and that the community expected us to live up to our role and say both Waters and Weeks had to go. They came as a team, they must leave as a team.”
As Bill Warner, another member of the group that met with Richardson, pointed out in a letter published by Grand Strand Daily, rather than a misdemeanor assault charge against Weeks, this incident had all the elements of a federal criminal assault charge under the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
Title 18, Section 245 of the United States Code says anyone who “willingly injures, intimidates or interferes with another person, or attempts to do so, by force because of the other person’s race, color, religion or national origin” violates the statute and, if injury results, is looking at a felony indictment and up to ten years in prison.
Throughout the four months, Richardson was open, honest and sincere in his desire for a just conclusion to the matter. Any delay in reaching the ultimate, necessary action was because of apparent misunderstandings of attorneys and, possibly, some GSWSA board members, of the seriousness and potential consequences of the incident.
In the end, GSWSA joined community members saying, in the words of Warner, “Not here you don’t! Not in our community!”