Culture of Arrogance at SWA

August 9, 2013 8:30 AMViews: 803

By Paul Gable

The culture of arrogance that pervades the Horry County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) was on view for all to see at Thursday’s Infrastructure and Regulation Committee meeting.

The SWA was created by Horry County Ordinance 60-90 and its board is appointed by vote of Horry County Council.

The SWA is currently telling the IRS that it is a “discreet component unit of Horry County Government.” However, at Thursday’s meeting SWA Executive Director Danny Knight told I&R Committee members the SWA is ‘in court not the county, sometimes (it’s) somewhat the county and sometimes somewhere in between.’

Knight’s comments are a perfect example of the type of non-answer doublespeak answers you get from the SWA.

At least partially as a result of the SWA’s demonstrated attitude, I&R Committee chairman Jody Prince requested county staff to investigate alternative forms of governance for the SWA other than the current authority.

It would seem rational for SWA officials to take a step back to determine where they had gotten so out of touch with council.

If history is any indicator, this will not happen. Even now, I expect plans are already being formulated at the SWA to put as much political pressure as possible on Prince and those who support his request to end this discussion.

In the minds of senior staff and board members at the SWA, they don’t work for county council. Knight said as much at Thursday’s I&R meeting. Their attitude is they are at least the equal, if not the superior, of county council.

Current SWA board chairman Rev. James Cokley told the I&R meeting, “As a board, our responsibility first is to the SWA.” Rev. Cokley obviously forgot who appointed him to the board.

During the meeting, Prince read an email sent by Rev. Cokley to SWA board members and senior staff. To me, the email is indicative of what I perceive to be the culture of arrogance prevalent at the SWA.

The email reads:

“Perhaps, I need to make certain that everyone knows where I stand on the resolutions that are supposedly forthcoming with the County Council.  First, I am completely in favor of Resolution R-74-13 supporting the implementation of the Incentive Program because it is totally in the best interest of the Horry County Solid Waste Authority and the citizens of Horry County.

“However, the resolution requiring us to have meetings at the Horry County Council Government building is not a resolution that came from the Horry County Solid Waste Authority nor is it one that I am supporting because I think it is ridiculous to require us to take everything from our building down to the County Building every time we have to have a meeting.  First they will start with the regular Board meeting, then it will be the Committee meetings, and then it will be any other times that we get together.  We have the capabilities of  handling video recordings in our own building so it is mute to have to move to someone’s building to do what we can do in our own building.  Secondly, if they were interested in our doing such, they should have had at least the decency to discuss it with us as a Board before putting it on their agenda.  We are not children we are adults and should be treated as such.

“Furthermore, I seek to remind all of us, Board Members, that we are a Board for the SWA first.  Our primary obligation is to ensure that the SWA is operated according to the bylaws established and adopted for the SWA.   It is not our obligation nor responsibility to ensure that the desires of others, including those desires of individual members of Horry County Council, be met or instituted unless our bylaws are judicially ruled against the bylaws of Horry County Council.  Anyone who sits on a Board for an agency ought be able to be entrusted to do what is best for that particular agency over and against what others on the outside looking in may desire.  Therefore, it concerns me considerably when individual board members know a whole lot about what is going on in the minds and private offices of those who are not always interested in what is best for the SWA.

“We are not obligated (especially not at additional costs to us) make our meetings available to anyone who desires to sit on their cushioned bottoms in the comfort of their homes.  Sure, it is our desire to ensure that we are transparent in our dealings but anyone who is that interested ought be willing to spend a little effort to see what is going on.”

Board Chairman

The entire email exudes a distinct ‘we’, ‘they’, ‘us’, ‘them’ mindset. Nowhere is there demonstration that the SWA is a “discreet component unit of Horry County Government” as it is telling the IRS.

And, there is apparent disdain for the concept of the taxpayers of Horry County having various types of opportunities to see how their tax dollars are being spent.

Not obligated to make meetings available to those who desire to sit on their cushioned bottoms in the comfort of their homes? That’s only the taxpayers of Horry County who provide the revenue for the SWA Rev. Cokley is talking about. If that’s not arrogance, what is?

While addressing remarks to the I&R Committee, Rev. Cokley made a point of saying he must have a “mole” on his board for the email to get in the hands of a council member. In addition to demonstrating no understanding of the Freedom of Information Act, doesn’t this appear to be a threatening or bullying attitude by Rev. Cokley?

How dare a member of his board share, with a member of the body that appoints that board, a missive from the board chairman to board members and senior staff regarding an issue that affects both agencies? The implied language is we’ll have to root that traitor out.

Mole? This isn’t Edward Snowden leaking state secrets. This is an email from the chairman of a public body to other members of the board of that public body.

But, in fairness to Rev. Cokley, similar types of statements have come from the mouths of a succession of SWA board chairman going back to the authority’s inception.

They are all typical of the culture of arrogance that pervades the Hwy 90 SWA headquarters. It is way past time for a change in governance of that agency.

 

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