By Paul Gable
More than three months after a racially charged incident marred a Memorial Day Weekend festival at Bucksport Marina, questions about the future direction of the publicly owned facility remain unanswered.
The Bucksport Marina incident has remained under the radar as the more well-known incident involving former Conway High School football coach Chuck Jordan grabbed local headlines.
But, in many ways, the incident at the Bucksport Marina was more blatant involving physical injuries, financial suffering and the hurling of racial epithets at a man just doing his job.
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.
Weeks was arrested and charged with 2nd Degree Assault. According to the 15th Circuit Court Index, the charges were brought before a Grand Jury and a True Bill Indictment was found against Weeks by the Grand Jury on August 9, 2017.
Hendrix suffered injuries that resulted in him not being able to work, thereby suffering financial loss and the loss of personal property as a result, according a lawsuit Hendrix has brought against Weeks personally and E.D. LLC.
By comparison, charges were also filed against Jordan, but later dropped. Nevertheless, Jordan was removed as football coach and placed on administrative leave until his contract expires at the end of November. The contract will not be renewed according to Horry County Schools officials.
However, it now looks as if Weeks may be returning to the marina and resort property as a sub-lessee due to legal interpretations by lawyers including those from the McNair Law Firm who represent GSWSA.
Unlike the school district, which immediately suspended Jordan, it took five weeks for GSWSA to take any action after the Memorial Day Weekend incident at Bucksport Marina. E.D. LLC never took action against its sub-lessee.
After an article in Grand Strand Daily comparing the Jordan and Weeks incidents, GSWSA CEO Fred Richardson met with Ed Waters, owner of E.D. LLC., in early July.
According to Richardson’s account of the meeting, Waters told Richardson, ‘Fred, I’ll do whatever you want.’
Richardson responded, “I think Weeks needs to go.”
To which Waters said, ‘Then, we’ll both go.’
According to Richardson, Waters and Weeks removed their property from the marina and RV resort locations and turned over the keys to the complex to Richardson.
According to Richardson, the names on the business license and utilities were changed from E.D. LLC to Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority and Richardson directed GSWSA attorneys to draft a mutual lease termination agreement. GSWSA found a group to run the marina and resort on an interim basis while business with E.D. LLC was being concluded.
According to Richardson, after Waters received the termination agreement, Waters claimed GSWSA had terminated his lease and owed him (E.D. LLC) approximately $500,000 as a result.
Messages left for Waters, by this reporter, requesting comment have not been returned.
Even though Waters and Weeks have been gone from the marina property for over two months, the issue regarding their respective leases remains up in the air, according to several GSWSA officials.
Waters and Weeks are both residents of Virginia, according to public records.
A mediation session between Richardson, Weeks and their respective attorneys was held last week according to Richardson. Richardson did not comment on details of those discussions but, when questioned about whether it was discussed that Weeks would not be allowed to return as a sub-lessee of GSWSA property Richardson said, “We haven’t discussed Weeks.”
Robert Rabon, a member of the GSWSA Board of Directors, stated the “consensus of the board is Weeks has to go.” However, Rabon said the issue was in the hands of the attorneys.
Richardson said no agreement was reached in the mediation session, but Waters was “given ‘til the 22nd (September 22, 2017) to settle it.”
One struggles to understand how the statement, ‘then, we’ll both (Waters and Weeks) go’; the removal of their personal property and returning the keys of the complex to GSWSA and the change in name on the business license and utilities does not constitute an abandonment of the lease. I guess that’s why we have lawyers, to muddle such apparently simple conclusions.
When do questions of decency and morality trump questions of legal issues contained in a lease?
I would submit when the questions are put to a public agency whose sole purpose is to act as a good steward of its publicly owned assets and to provide the best service possible to the public.
According to one Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority board member, the agency employs many African-American workers. Are they to be fearful of what may await them if they decide to visit the marina and/or campground owned by their employer?
The incident at the Bucksport Marina during Memorial Day Weekend is becoming controversial among members of the local community.
Local community activist Benny Swans opposes the return of either Waters or Weeks as leaseholders of the publicly owned marina and resort complex. Swans has reached out to a GSWSA board member requesting no final decision on the lease be made until after he and the community have an opportunity to address the issue at the next regularly scheduled meeting of the GSWSA board September 25, 2017.
“We see them (Waters and Weeks) as a team and it is unacceptable for either of them to come back (to the GSWSA property).,” Swans said. “We have enough problems in Horry County, we don’t need to import problems from Virginia.”
“As a community, we need to exercise better judgement,” Swans said. “We’re counting on those who are on the board (of GSWSA), as chosen by our legislative delegation, to exercise wise and prudent judgement to continue to move forward. If they don’t, as seems to be the case with this incident, we all lose.”
Fred Nesta, a politically active resident of Horry County, sent the following email to GSD commenting on a prior article on this issue:
“If Mr. Weeks spewed such hatred and is still being reinstated to any position associated with GSWS or any of it subsidiary’s, in my opinion, is unconscionable. GSWS should terminate the lease if Mr. Weeks is reinstated .Moreover GSWS should publicly denounce such behavior.
“If Mr. Weeks is allowed to come back, what kind of statement does this make to the community?
“In my humble opinion, if GSWS makes no attempt to stop Mr. Weeks’ reinstatement they (GSWS officials) should be ashamed of themselves and deserve any bad press and embarrassment it may cause.”