Former Coast RTA CEO Myers Rollins recently lost a legal battle with the S.C. Department of Transportation, but Rollins’ case against the bus service that fired him two years ago is still being sorted out.
Judge Benjamin Culbertson dismissed Rollins’ lawsuit against SCDOT, SCDOT official Doug Frate and former SCDOT official Hart Baker after a two-day trial last month (March 1-2).
In an order filed on March 28, Culbertson said Rollins had shown no evidence to support his claims of civil conspiracy, interference with contractual relations, and defamation.
“The Plaintiff has failed to prove the requisite elements of his causes of action against the Defendants,” Culbertson wrote.
Rollins said via email that he has not decided whether he will appeal the verdict. He said he is waiting on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to complete its investigation of his situation and make a determination before arbitration.
The former CEO lost his job on April 30, 2014, after controversy erupted over his handling of a long-delayed bus shelter and signage program. State officials abandoned the project in 2013 and later cut more than $375,000 in funding for Coast because of the failed initiative.
In June 2014, Rollins filed a 24-page lawsuit in Horry County District Court. The 93-item document alleged years of abuse, humiliation and deceit that ultimately culminated in his termination after a nine-year tenure with the agency.
In his lawsuit, Rollins blamed state officials for mishandling the shelter project and said his firing was “improper and baseless.”
The lawsuit listed Coast RTA, SCDOT, Horry County Councilman and Coast RTA board member Gary Loftus, County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus, Coast board Chairman Bernie Silverman, Coast board member Katherine D’Angelo and Coast’s former Chief Financial Officer Julie Norton-Dew as defendants. Frate and Baker were also named in the case.
Rollins sought $5 million in actual damages and punitive damages awarded by a jury. He also wanted his job back, back pay and benefits.
In February 2015, Rollins rejected a settlement offer, according to court records, and he later cut ties with his attorneys because they wanted him to accept a deal that he didn’t believe was fair.
Rollins, who once worked as a lawyer, is currently representing himself, but he said he hasn’t decided if he will hire another attorney.
In October, Judge William Seals divided Rollins’ complaint, allowing the lawsuit against Frate, Baker and SCDOT to proceed to trial while sending the case against the other parties to arbitration.
Coast RTA spokeswoman Michelle Cantey said she couldn’t discuss Rollins’ case because the matter is still pending.
Rollins has accused SCDOT of mismanaging the bus shelter program. He’s also said SCDOT’s top officials set out to get him. He claims Coast was incorrectly labeled a “high risk” agency by SCDOT and that designation was later removed.
“High risk” agencies face additional state scrutiny and often grapple with bureaucratic hurdles when seeking funding.
State officials, however, have argued that Coast’s “high risk” designation remained in place until they rescinded it earlier this year.
They also said a 2011 letter, purportedly from SCDOT, that says the status was removed is a forgery and didn’t come from the state.
Rollins has argued in court filings that the allegations of forgery are false. He also submitted the results of a polygraph he took in 2014. During that exam, he was asked about the letter and the “high risk” designation, according to court records.
“No deception indicated” was written on his polygraph report.
Baker has retired from SCDOT. Frate, the agency’s director of intermodal and freight programs, declined to comment.
Patrick Frawley, the Lexington attorney who represented SCDOT, Baker and Frate in the case, could not be reached for comment.