CONWAY — The president of the local chapter of the NAACP wants Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus to appoint someone new to the Coast RTA board to replace Councilman Gary Loftus who he called out as one who picks on the transit’s CEO because he’s black.
Lazarus, however, said he will not replace Loftus and that Loftus’ questions are nothing personal and strictly business.
Abdullah Mustafa, president of the Conway NAACP chapter, stood before the County Council earlier this week, who he said has to be held accountable for Loftus’ recent questioning of the salary of Myers Rollins, Coast RTA general manager and CEO.
“The executive director continues to be, we would say, personally attacked. Asking for salaries, asking for this, asking for that,” Mustafa said. “But one thing that we noticed is that no other department head has been asked these things. I’ve come to the conclusion that because of the fact that Mr. Rollins is African American, and when we look at Horry County and we look at every other department head, this is the only department that is headed by an African American.”
Saundra Rhodes, chief of Horry County Police, is African American. Also, Loftus has defended himself against the claims that he singled Rollins out by stating he has held the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. to the same standards, which its CEO Brad Lofton has confirmed to The Sun News.
“What are we saying? We’re saying that if Mr. Rollins has been attacked, then the African American community has been attacked,” Mustafa said. “And we want it to stop. You guys have Councilman Loftus as your representative. It doesn’t appear that he has any interest in advancing the interest of transportation for Horry County citizens.
“One of the things that we’re requesting is that you guys put someone else on the board that has interest to support Coast RTA.”
Lazarus told The Sun News after the meeting that he does not plan to make any changes to the Coast RTA appointment.
“I think Mr. Loftus has done an exceptional job. He’s asked the right questions,” Lazarus said. “They’re financially responsible for the monies that we give. It has nothing to do with Mr. Rollins personally.”
The accusations that Loftus was singling Rollins out came out in an email exchange between Loftus and Rollins that was shared with local media. Loftus asked for a breakdown in Rollins’ salary after there was a $40,000 discrepancy in his salary from a spreadsheet in May and one in the fall. Rollins said the request violated his rights and wanted attorneys to review the request.
Rollins’s office later explained why there was a discrepancy, which had to do with an accounting practice, and Loftus has said he was satisfied with the answer given.
Loftus said race shouldn’t be in the discussion and has contended that the issue has always surrounded the county getting more non-elected appointees on the Coast RTA board considering it is among the highest contributors to the transit.
“What I’ve tried to point out is the fact that the council, for all practical purposes, has little control over the spending of the money,” Loftus said. “I question how much the board is told about the things that are going on that they should know to make wise decisions on expenditure of funds. There’s things that are being done internally that is costing us money. Why shouldn’t I be concerned about those things?
“All I’m saying, are we ever going to be as efficient as I want them to be? No. But we sure could do a lot better than what we’re doing.”
Council says Ho, Ho, No to bonuses for elected officials
Horry County Council split their vote on whether to give elected officials, excluding themselves, holiday bonuses, which effectively nixed the idea.
Council voted in November to give county employees a $250 holiday gift, but did not include elected officials like the auditor, treasurer and sheriff.
“When they run for office, they understand the terms and whatever else and in as much as they’re elected, I’m going to vote no on this issue,” said Councilman Carl Schwartzkopf.
Schwartzkopf joined Councilmen Marion Foxworth, Bob Grabowski, Paul Prince, Al Allen and Paul Price in voting down the measure.
Horry Councilman donates $20k to veterans for van, homelessness
It was an early Christmas gift that nearly brought Carroll Prosser, chapter commander of the Disabled American Veterans, Grand Strand Chapter 30, to tears.
Councilman Paul Price, a 26-year veteran of the Marines and Air Force and retired South Carolina state trooper, donated $15,000 to help buy a van for the Grand Strand chapter to transport disabled veterans from the Grand Strand to appointments at the Ralph H. Johnson Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Charleston. Price also donated $5,000 to a fund for homeless veterans.
The money comes from a recreation fund each councilman has to use at his discretion.
The current van has 150,000 miles on it and transports, on average, nine veterans per day.
Prosser went to the council meeting earlier this week to seek some funding, but did not imagine to get all of it from the council, let alone one councilman himself.
“Oh no. Thank you,” Prosser said as applause rang from audience members at the meeting. “Sir, I am truly honored. I’m speechless.”
Museum looking for help in 2014
The Horry County Museum is having its volunteer orientation day from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Jan. 4 at the McCown Auditorium at the Horry County Museum, 805 Main Street, Conway.
Volunteers help with membership drives, special projects and programs, fund raising, tours and more.
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.