Coast RTA announced Tuesday that Brian Piascik will serve as its next general manager and chief executive officer, but some Horry County Councilmen said Coast jumped the gun because the agency did not get the council’s approval.
A press release sent to area media and county officials, including councilmen, welcomed Piascik to Coast RTA. But the announcement was a shock to some council members, even those who are on the Coast RTA board of directors, because it violates the funding agreement the county and transit agreed to in 2014, which states the council must vote on the new chief before one is hired.
Bernie Silverman, chairman of the Coast RTA board, gave about a half hour presentation on what Coast has done in relation to the funding agreement. Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said the idea of announcing a new CEO was not a good one.
“We’re getting the cart so far before the horse here,” Lazarus said. “It is an embarrassment to me that that press release came out. It’s almost as if we don’t even exist up here. Tonight, you’re coming before this County Council to impress us, and a press release is sent about 30 minutes before we started the meeting that y’all had hired this individual, we haven’t seen anything on him as a complete council.”
Mickey James, a Coast board member, said he did not know the press release was being issued and he didn’t agree with the strategy.
“A lot of things shouldn’t have happened that we’ve done so far,” James told the council after Lazarus’ remarks. “What I’m telling you right now, we’re going to do better.”
The main reason for Coast to be at the meeting was to give an update on the funding agreement, which gives $1.05 million of county funds to the agency, which operates on a $5 million budget. Silverman outlined the requirements of the agreement and gave an update on where Coast is on each of them.
Some of items in the agreement, Silverman said, would be addressed by Piascik.
“He wants to come here,” Silverman said. “We know that we need your approval on this contract. He understands that. He has signed a formal letter of agreement that is dependent upon Horry County Council’s approval of the contract.”
Silverman said an example is the $63,000 Coast RTA could save for a route study. Piascik is a planner and a company gave Coast RTA that $63,000 quote to create a study of its routes.
“We think we can get this plan done with him here,” Silverman said. “We really need him here.”
Piascik could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Details of his start date, starting salary and benefits package are still being negotiated.
Piascik, who currently lives in Texas, spent 14 years in the private sector, and worked in the public sector before that at a place in Massachusetts that is similar to the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study.
Coast RTA is looking for a new CEO because its board fired Myers Rollins on April 30, 2014, after controversy regarding his handling of a bus shelter and sign program. In June, Rollins sued county and state officials for his termination and the projects. That lawsuit is pending.
Councilman Johnny Vaught also was not happy with Coast waiting to hire a new CEO to address items in the near year-old funding agreement.
“We didn’t say to hire somebody to do all these things in the planning agreement,” Vaught said. “We said Coast RTA should do these things in the planning agreement.”
Vaught also said he though the press release was premature and Silverman said, “We have made a job offer to him. There is no contract. Our attorney is working on a contract.”
Lazarus said the lack of progress on funding agreement items sends him a wrong message.
“The reality of it is you had almost a year... You had almost a year to get us this forensic audit, and now the excuse tonight is we’re in tax season,” Lazarus said referencing the reason Silverman gave for why the forensic audit was not complete. “To me, that’s derelicts in your duties. Y’all are not taking us seriously. That board is not taking this County Council seriously.”
Lazarus said the press release “set me off today.”
“Y’all can hire this individual if you want to, but this individual has to understand that it’s all predicated on this funding agreement. If this council says, you hired him against our funding agreement, this council can full the funding that is in existence today.”
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or on Twitter @TSN_JRodriguez.
Funding agreement details and status
Horry County and Coast RTA entered into a funding agreement in 2014 for the county to better hold Coast RTA accountable for the $1.05 million it provides to the transit annually. Here is a look at the items agreed upon and their status:
• Prior to any monies being disbursed, the agency shall provide copies of its most recently completed audit of its financial statements.
• The county will procure and obtain the results of a study which analyzes the routes currently in effect, and provides recommendations for changes.
Status: Coast RTA started a task force; company offers to perform the analysis for $63,000. Coast opts to wait for new CEO.
• The county will [may in its discretion] procure and obtain a forensic audit focusing on compliance with applicable laws and regulations as well as the safeguarding of assets.
Status: Coast said audit could not be completed because it is currently tax season. Audit results are expected by end of April.
• County Council will select a consultant (to be employed by the Coast RTA Board) to serve as interim general manager/CEO for Coast RTA, until such time as a suitable permanent replacement can be found.
Status: A consultant was never hired. Julie Norton-Dew, the transit’s chief financial officer, serves as interim general manager.
• Concerning the hiring of the permanent general manager/CEO, a search committee will be formed, consisting of three members appointed by County Council and three members appointed by the Coast RTA Board. Members will be individuals, independent of Horry County Government and Coast RTA, knowledgeable and experienced in the fields of finance and public transportation. The committee will conduct a search of qualified candidates for the position of general manager/CEO and provide to the Coast RTA board a list of three finalists for consideration. The Coast RTA board will conduct public interviews of those finalists and make a determination for hire from the three. The candidate selected will be required to enter into an employment contract, the terms and conditions of which to be approved by County Council.
Status: Search committee interviewed three candidates. Sent formal offer letter to Brian Piascik and announced his hiring before council approved the contract.
• The agency will provide the county with the following throughout the term of this agreement: Monthly internally-prepared fmancial information, as specified below, which shows total receipts and expenditures in sufficient detail to reflect the restrictions of the funding sources from which County staff can determine that county revenues are funding appropriate expenditures.
• Upon request of the county, the Coast RTA finance director and other staff as appropriate will meet with the Horry County finance director to review financial and cash flow projections, and to discuss other financial matters.
• At each county administration committee meeting, Coast RTA will present a report, providing a review of their finances as well as their operations, routes, designated pick-up points and drop-off locations.
• Upon request of the county, the agency shall allow one or more representatives of the county access to all financial records of the agency and any subsidiary or affiliated corporation or entity of the agency necessary to examine documentation and support for the receipt and disbursement of the funds provided hereunder, whether received or disbursed by the agency or such subsidiary or affiliate corporation or entity of the agency.
• The agency shall provide a certificate of insurance upon such terms as the county may require, including at least $1,000,000 per occurrence on each liability policy. This per occurrence amount is based on the services in effect as of June 30, 2014. The county may require adjustment to this amount if changes in services occur which are deemed to warrant an adjustment to this amount.
• The agency must have continually in effect a written procurement policy acceptable to the county, adopted and approved by the agency’s board of directors and shall provide a signed copy and/or minutes from the board of directors meeting substantiating adoption of said policy to the county before any funds are disbursed hereunder.
Status: Completed and ongoing
Source: Bernie Silverman, chairman of Coast RTA board