By Paul Gable
A lawsuit with racial discrimination overtones was recently filed against the Bucksport Plantation Marina and RV Resort, ED LLC and Jeffrey Weeks individually for an incident that took place on May 28, 2017.
The lawsuit was filed by Melinda Knowles, attorney representing Plaintiff Clarence Curtis Hendrix, in the 15th Circuit Court on September 1, 2017.
What makes this lawsuit noteworthy is Bucksport Plantation Marina and RV Resort is owned by Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority (GSWSA), a public agency that was created by the S.C. General Assembly through the passage of Act 337 of 1971.
According to the lawsuit, “ED LLC maintains an exclusive leasehold interest in the real property that houses the Resort and, upon information and belief, either employs Weeks as manager of the Resort or operates a partnership with Weeks in the operation of the Resort.”
According to the lawsuit, Hendrix, who is African-American, was hired by “The Waccamaw Getaway Music Festival” that was held over Memorial Day Weekend 2017 at the Bucksport Marina venue.
The incident involving Weeks and Hendrix, which led to the lawsuit, is described in the complaint, “During the early morning hours of Sunday, May 28, 2017 Plaintiff and the other staff members were engaged in driving an intoxicated Festival attendee back to his campsite. Weeks, driving a large heavy-duty black truck, drove up behind the courtesy shuttle at a high rate of speed. When it became clear that the truck was not decreasing in speed, Plaintiff’s co-staff member attempted to evade the truck and avoid a collision by hugging the shoulder of the narrow dirt road. Ultimately, the truck driven by Weeks forced the shuttle off the road with all three occupants onboard. The shuttle struck a ditch and became lodged with two of its wheels suspended in the air. The crash and the force of the impact threw Plaintiff off the shuttle. Simultaneous with the shuttle’s wreck, Weeks brought his heavy-duty truck to a rapid, skidding stop next to the disabled golf cart. Weeks then exited his truck, snatched the key out of the disabled shuttle, and verbally accosted Plaintiff in the presence of the Festival attendee.”
According to a police report of the incident, “Weeks exited his vehicle and yelled, I told you f—–g niggers to get out of my camp ground.”
According to 15th Circuit Court records, Weeks was arrested and charged with 2nd Degree Assault based on the “overwhelming number of witnesses and statements” about the details of the incident. The charge is still pending in 15th Circuit General Sessions Court.
When questioned about the incident shortly after it occurred, Fred Richardson, Chief Executive Officer of GSWSA, said, “We would like a wholesome, recreational boating atmosphere (at the marina). We don’t want any ill will between GSWSA and anybody.”
According to sources familiar with the incident and its aftermath, GSWSA notified Ed Waters, owner of ED LLC, that Weeks could no longer be associated with the property. Shortly thereafter, interim operators were placed at the marina and RV resort by GSWSA, according to those sources.
However, recently GSWSA notified those interim operators their services will not be needed after September 22, 2017, and several sources told GSD that ED LLC and Weeks will be back operating the marina and resort from that date.
GSWSA is a sub-division of state government. Its employees and board members are eligible for state health insurance and retirement benefits funded by employee contributions and public dollars and all assets of GSWSA are public assets just as assets owned by Horry County Government are public assets.
While GSWSA is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit brought by Hendrix, as a government sub-division it bears the responsibility of overseeing the assets it owns and controls in the public interest and assuring those assets are utilized in the best interests and to the benefit of all citizens of Horry County and the State of South Carolina.
GSWSA’s mission statement on its website opines in part, “We are also here to protect the public health, protect the environment, and improve each of our customers’ quality of life.”
One would presume that lessees of public property owned by GSWSA should conduct themselves in a manner supporting that mission statement.
It is difficult to determine how the attitudes and actions described in the lawsuit and police report constitute acting in that manner or contributing to a better quality of life for Horry County citizens.
Bennie Swans, an African-American community activist in Horry County known for promoting initiatives aimed at achieving harmony among county residents of all races and ethnicities, commented on the incident and its aftermath, “Anyone acting so irresponsibly is not acceptable and for Grand Strand Water and Sewer not to act responsibly and cancel the lease is unconscionable.”
Read the entire complaint: document (1)