By Paul Gable
As Coast RTA has attempted to move forward since terminating former General Manager Myers Rollins, it has been subjected to what appears to be a campaign further discredit the agency.
This is not unusual. When a public agency makes the headlines with negative publicity, there is a tendency for some to pile on, especially if they have personal agendas.
The agency has problems, most seriously with its bus fleet which has been allowed to deteriorate while things like island ferries were discussed under the Rollins regime.
Rollins filed a lawsuit seeking $5 million in actual damages plus punitive damages to be determined by a jury. The initial filing alleged defamation, a civil conspiracy, infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, violations of the South Carolina wage and payment act and interference with contractual relations.
Rollins also, reportedly, filed initial papers with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging race discrimination and retaliation.
It is interesting that service of the Rollins lawsuit occurred on the same day Horry County Council voted on third reading of its budget ordinance which contained funding in the amount of $1.06 million for Coast RTA. Coast RTA got the funding for this fiscal year.
Other areas such as Coast RTA employees using their per diem for extravagant lunches and dinners have made headlines.
Last week, things went from the sublime to the ridiculous (to use an old Thomas Paine idiom) when Jay Specter essentially threatened the Coast RTA board with another EEOC complaint if it didn’t follow through on what he considered an offer of employment.
Specter, who claimed to be the manager for Chuck Ottwell’s Horry County Council District Five campaign last spring, was, according to sources, referred to Coast RTA officials by Ottwell after Ottwell was appointed to the Coast RTA board in the summer.
According to sources at Coast RTA, Specter never filled out an application for a job nor met with anyone in Human Relations about one.
Specter did, reportedly, have a meeting with Coast RTA Interim General Manager Julie Norton Dew about the need for a marketing rep for the bus agency.
How this meeting translated into a job offer is unclear.
However, at last week’s board meeting, Specter addressed the board during public input. During that address he said, “…this board discussed my hiring and reached a conclusion that my criminal conviction was the sole basis for refusing to hire me.”
According to court records, Specter was sentenced in June 2007 to three and one-half years in federal prison for five counts of making and passing five checks totaling nearly $1 million. Specter served his time and paid his debt to society, so to speak.
Specter claimed that Coast RTA may have violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act if it refused to hire him solely on the basis of his prior record, if this claim was investigated by the EEOC and found to be true.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act enumerates protected classes of citizens who cannot be discriminated against solely based on race, sex, color, religion, national origin, age or disability.
Nowhere does it appear that convicted felons have been added as a protected class under the act.
Nevertheless, Specter’s statement made headlines in local media.
The Coast RTA board is currently on the verge of adding two members who will be appointed by Horry County Council, pending a legal opinion.
The board is working to address maintenance problems so it can provide reliable service to the citizens who need it.
It doesn’t need further distractions for the sole purpose of garnering headlines.