Ethics commission grants Coast RTA leader new hearing

The S.C. Ethics Commission on Wednesday granted Coast RTA CEO and General Manager Myers Rollins a new hearing after finding him in violation in September for not filing his statements of economic interest for three years.

His new hearing will be held March 20, 2013, according to Cathy Hazelwood, general counsel for the ethics commission.

Rollins planned to present information that former Coast RTA employees – Chief Financial Officer Patricia Webster and Joey McKelvey, former director of operations – neglected to perform assigned duties that ultimately led to $9,500 in fines and fees.

“[The commission] did look over the evidence, though,” Rollins said after Wednesday mornings hearing. “They said some very positive things, such as ‘It’s clear this guy was set up.’ ”

As of 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Rollins’ name was no longer on the list of debtors available on the ethics commission’s website, which said it was last updated Sept. 26. His name was on the list as recently as Monday.

In September, 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.

The first hearing was held in July, which Rollins did not attend, according to an ethics commission complaint. In October, Hazelwood said Rollins’ absence likely played a part in the amount he was ordered to pay as a penalty.

Company emails from Coast RTA, obtained by The Sun News through a Freedom of Information Act request, indicate that Webster was instructed to file Rollins’ statements. 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.

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.

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 according to the ethics commission’s website.

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.

Hazelwood said she and Rollins both will present their cases in March with examination, cross-examination and presentation of any exhibits. The commission would make its ruling and inform Rollins that day. Rollins could have to pay up to $2,000 for each statement that wasn’t filed.

“The fines could go from zero to $6,000, whatever penalties they determine,” Hazelwood said.