By Paul Gable
Abdullah Mustafa, President of the Conway Branch of the NAACP, told Horry County Council he planned to bring “national attention” to events regarding the Select Committee on Coast RTA and the firing of former Coast RTA general manager Myers Rollins.
Mustafa addressed Horry County Council during public input at its regular meeting of May 6, 2014. Mustafa claimed he was addressing council “on behalf of the citizens who cannot speak for themselves”, namely the riders of Coast RTA. But, he didn’t.
Instead, Mustafa challenged the right of county council chairman Mark Lazarus to form a Select Committee to study the failure of two projects at Coast RTA and to make a recommendation on continued funding of the bus agency.
Mustafa made reference to two county projects that cost taxpayer dollars – the failed West Side Terminal Project and the WestJet fiasco both at Myrtle Beach International Airport. He said no special committee was appointed to investigate either debacle.
That is true, but, two airport directors lost their jobs over those failed projects – Bob Kemp for the West Side Terminal and Mike LaPere for WestJet. Mustafa forgot that part.
He claimed that since a countywide advisory referendum supporting funding Coast RTA at the rate of 0.6 mills ($1.055 million) was passed in 2010, county council “did everything to take the money back.”
Mustafa further stated that county council influenced the Coast RTA board to fire Rollins and that the Coast RTA board fired Rollins “for no reason whatsoever.” Neither claim is true.
By virtue of being an American citizen, Mustafa is entitled to say anything he wants to during his time in the Public Input section of a county council meeting. However, it would have been nice if he had done even a little research before he made these wild claims.
Horry County Council definitely has a right, in fact a duty, to determine whether its tax dollars are being spent in a fashion that benefits the taxpayers of Horry County. If its chairman chooses to appoint a Select Committee to determine facts about the management of Coast RTA, an agency to which the county is the second largest provider of annual grant funds, he may certainly do so.
From its first meeting, the Select Committee was very specific in its mission. Below are several sections from the adopted minutes of the committee’s first meeting held on March 17, 2014.
“This was a select committee but it had no authority. Nothing they said or did was necessarily going to be taken by anybody more than a grain of salt, and County Council was not in a position to direct RTA what they should do, and they wouldn’t attempt to speak for County Council in doing that.”
“It was not an attempt by Council to find a way to defund R T A, and was not an attempt by Council to direct R T A to make personnel decisions.”
“The committee would examine two programs that had been terminated and being questioned by SCDOT using these programs as guides to determine if their hurdles continued ongoing concerns regarding management of the agency and as such make a report back to County Council before June 1st including therein a recommendation regarding future funding.”
Furthermore, the committee acknowledged at its first meeting that two groups must be kept in mind – those who need and ride the buses for transportation around the county and the taxpayers whose tax dollars go to fund the bus agency.
County council DID NOT influence the Coast RTA board to fire Myers Rollins. That action was taken by the board alone and it included the vote to fire Rollins of board member Mickey James, the President of the Myrtle Beach Chapter of the NAACP.
Mustafa doesn’t even have a supposed claim of racism he can support with the facts. “National Attention” is not going to change those facts.
As for the claim that Rollins was fired for no reason, one must look no further than the 10 shelters purchased with federal grant money but installed in Myrtle Beach for use by Horry County Schools students only and the Intergovernmental Agreement between Coast RTA and the City of Myrtle Beach which addresses these 10 shelters.
The only black and white pertinent to actions on the part of the Select Committee and Coast RTA board were those of the black print on white paper of the various contracts and other documents associated with the two failed projects.