By Paul Gable
Coast RTA board member Katharine D’Angelo reported via email Thursday night to the other seven members of the board that she was asked to resign her position as a board member.
According to D’Angelo’s email, the request came out of a meeting between board members Ivory Wilson and Joseph Lazzara and unnamed members of the Coast RTA senior staff.
D’Angelo reported in her email that she had no intention of resigning from the board, a position she has held for 14 years through appointment by the North Myrtle Beach City Council.
The Coast RTA board members are appointed by the elected bodies of the various local governments throughout the area serviced by the agency, as well as three members appointed by the Horry County Legislative Delegation. All appointments are made in accordance with S.C. Code of Laws Section 58-25-40.
Board members may be removed by the same elected body that appointed them.
It is extremely presumptuous for board members, appointed by several different elected bodies, to request the resignation of another board member appointed by a completely different elected body.
There is absolutely no justification for staff members to be included in conversations with board members about other board members.
This latest controversy apparently stems from questions D’Angelo asked during the regular Coast RTA board meeting of March 26, 2014. In that meeting, D’Angelo requested explanation of how Coast RTA had overpaid insurance premiums to the S.C. Public Employees Benefit Association in the amount of $44,000.
Under questioning by D’Angelo, it was revealed that the insurance premiums were paid for former employees of Coast RTA who were no longer employed at the agency when the payments were made.
Despite approximately 15 minutes of questioning, D’Angelo received no definitive explanation of how such a mistake was made.
However, there may be more at play here than an overpayment of $44,000.
Since the appointment of a special committee by Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus, several events, outlined below, have dovetailed into what may become a ‘perfect storm’:
A letter from the Coast RTA staff attorney to the S.C. Department of Transportation questioned the legality of an executive session of county council during which a SCDOT official explained the cancellation by SCDOT of two Coast RTA projects over which the state agency conducted oversight.
An email from Coast RTA General Manager Myers Rollins notified board chairman Bernie Silverman of Rollins’ intention to hire an outside investigator to determine the source of a leak, to a local media publication, about the details of a proposed new five-year contract for Rollins.
The same media publication printed a story in which contents of SCDOT letters, obtained through a FOIA request, were divulged naming Coast RTA as an “High Risk” agency over three years ago.
The final report of the special committee could significantly affect votes by Horry County Council members on whether or not to fund Coast RTA in upcoming years.
According to sources familiar with negotiations, the board appears to be split 4-4 on the question of a new contract for Rollins. D’Angelo is listed in the “no” column by those same sources. Obviously, her removal from the board could have an impact on the final vote on the contract.
The next meeting of the special committee will be held Monday April 7, 2014 in the Horry County Council conference room beginning at 5:30 p.m. SCDOT official Doug Frate is scheduled to make a presentation to the committee.