Emails indicate 2 former Coast RTA employees worked to oust CEO

A three-year ordeal for the CEO and general manager of the Coast RTA that has called into question his ethics and led to the firing of two employees culminates Wednesday with the transit authority leader standing in front of the S.C. Ethics Commission.

In September, the commission found Rollins in violation for not filing statements of economic interest for three years. He has appealed the ruling and will present his case to the panel Wednesday in Columbia.

Company emails from Coast RTA, obtained by The Sun News through a Freedom of Information Act request, indicate that former Chief Financial Officer Patricia Webster and Joey McKelvey, former director of operations, worked to have Myers Rollins fired by neglecting to perform assigned duties that ultimately led to fines for the Coast RTA CEO and general manager.

McKelvey – who appears to have moved out of state, according to online records – and Webster did not respond to requests for comment.

According to about 100 emails sent from 2009 to 2011 between Webster and McKelvey – who were terminated from their positions in February 2011 – the two worked together in an attempt to either force Rollins to resign or have him fired.

The emails include allegations that Rollins was using a company car for personal use, attempting to sabotage a 2010 ballot initiative as well as missing the filing deadlines for the annual statement of economic interests with the ethics commission, according to documents.

The Sun News requested the emails after learning they might shed light on why Rollins did not file annual statement of economic interest forms with the commission.

When asked about the emails, Rollins said it was his discovery of that correspondence that led to the termination of Webster and McKelvey. He said he received an anonymous packet at his home in early February 2011 warning him that he should be concerned about some of his top level staff.

“The cover sheet said we’re sending you this because we think you need to know what’s really going on while you guys are trying to turn the agency around. And inside were emails between the two terminated employees, which were totally ... criticizing the organization and my leadership in particular,” he said.

Rollins said he had an information technology company verify the emails had, in fact, come from Webster and McKelvey and discovered additional emails that accused him of things he said were completely unfounded.

Ethics commission violation

The commission found Rollins to be in violation after discovering earlier this year that statements were not filed for 2009, 2010 and 2011. He was ordered to pay a total of $9,000 in fines and a $500 administrative fee in September. Rollins filed a motion for reconsideration on both the finding and the penalty, which is scheduled to be heard Wednesday at 10 a.m, according to Cathy L. Hazelwood, general counsel to the ethics commission.

An October press release from Coast RTA’s Board of Directors Chairman Ivory Wilson said a review of the facts revealed that filing the statements was a duty that had been delegated.

On Friday, Jan. 23, 2009, Webster told Rollins in an email that she filed both of their statements online. However, a search of the ethics commission’s website shows that only statements for Webster and Chief Procurement Official Elizabeth A. Heinz were filed that day.

That following Monday, Webster emailed McKelvey about Rollins, who is referred to as “Elvis” in many of the messages between the two. Rollins said he learned from McKelvey and Webster that they referred to him as Elvis in emails.

“I have a great big surprise for Elvis which I am sure will get him in hot water with State authorities as well as the Board. It will be very expensive for Elvis as well,” Webster wrote. “Sorry ... I can’t share details at this time. Stay tuned for the fireworks! Delete this after reading.”

Webster also sent an email to Rollins on Monday, Feb. 22, 2010, telling him the statements had been filed the previous Friday, however hers was the only statement filed that day.

Rollins’ statements for 2009, 2010 and 2011 were filed on April 16, 2012 – after he was contacted by the commission. Webster was no longer with Coast RTA when the 2011 statements were filed.

Bus tax referendum

In 2010, Rollins campaigned for a ballot measure to get a dedicated funding source through county property tax revenue. The referendum passed with more than 60 percent of the vote with the help of many Coast RTA staffers.

However, emails from McKelvey and Webster reveal their opposition to the referendum’s passage.

“Tomorrow is ‘Elvis Day’ and I am starting to believe that E may pull this vote off. He has been all over the County everyday for weeks selling this vote,” according to an email McKelvey wrote to Webster on Sept. 1, 2010. “I could be wrong but E may shock the world (and county council) and pull this thing off.”

Webster replied that she hoped the measure would fail so Rollins would “just move on.”

“Joey, you are so deserving to be GM and you know I will give you my full support,” she wrote.

The two planned to put together packets of information and deliver them to county and state officials, alleging illegal activity surrounding Rollins’ referendum campaign.

“The package to (former Horry County administrator John) Weaver was dropped in the mail. Let’s sit back and watch the fireworks. Would like to be a fly on the wall when Elvis meets with Weaver next week,” McKelvey wrote to Webster in May 2010.

Weaver said with the time that had passed since the package would have been delivered, he could not recall receiving any such package in 2010.

“I am putting together some invoices that confirm Myers is making illegal payments to a local vendor for the referendum in violation of (Federal Transit Administration) and (S.C. Department of Transportation) procurement laws. I have shared my concerns re: his illegal and unethical conduct with our Board Chair Kitty D’Angelo. I am going to delete this email,” Webster wrote to Brenda Perryman with the SCDOT’s Office of Mass Transit on Sept. 28, 2010.

Perryman referred The Sun News’ request for comment to her supervisor Doug Frate, deputy secretary for intermodal and freight programming with the SCDOT. Frate said he knew that the DOT conducted a routine compliance and oversight review on Coast RTA around the time that Webster contacted Perryman, but could not comment on any findings or recommendations that may have been made.

Improper use of company car

Also in the Sept. 1, 2010, email, McKelvey told Webster he spoke with Perryman about Rollins’ use of Coast RTA vehicles. According to the email, the two presented Perryman with information accusing Rollins of improperly using a Coast RTA vehicle while he campaigned for the referendum – who then confronted Rollins.

“I spoke to Brenda. She said she met with E following last weeks Board meeting. She told him SCDOT received an anonymous tip that he was using vehicle 09,” McKelvey wrote. “[Rollins] told her he and the Board agreed to his use of the vehicle off and on during the campaign. ... He also told her he insisted that Finance charge him a daily per diem for each day he uses the car.”

Webster told McKelvey that she did set Rollins up with a per diem for the days he drove the Coast RTA car.

“I tried to tell him as GM he is entitled to use any non revenue vehicle but he insisted. He said everything must pass smell test (go figure!),” Webster wrote.

Disappointed and devastated

Rollins said he’s never been able to understand the motive behind Webster and McKelvey’s actions.

“As I stand here today, two years later, I do not have a definitive answer that explains why they abandoned the mission,” he said. “Professionally I was extremely disappointed. Personally, I was devastated.”