Waccamaw EOC rehires chief

In a change of heart the Waccamaw Economic Opportunity Council voted Tuesday to reinstate former Director Elizabeth Fryar, according to one board member.

It is unclear whether Fryar will choose to return after the board fired her April 27, citing a personnel matter.

The board voted 9-to-5 to rehire Fryar, 1st Vice Chairman Michael Johnson said.

The about face from the board comes two weeks after the state sanctioned the Waccamaw EOC for improperly firing Fryar.

The Waccamaw EOC serves more than 8,000 residents in Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties and administers about $7.5 million in grant funding for weatherization programs, job training and aid with utility bills.

"The board reinstated Ms. Fryar effective immediately," Johnson said. "The decision was to do what was best for the citizens of our community and to move forward."

Johnson said he was one of those who originally voted to fire Fryar and switched his vote at Tuesday's meeting.

"I re-evaluated the situation. ... Our process in firing Ms. Fryar was not correct according to the state," Johnson said. "We are here to be serving the citizens and we placed ourselves in a position where we were not doing that."

The state placed the Waccamaw EOC on reimbursement status the day after Fryar's employment was terminated.

The board failed to provide a 10 day notice of Fryar's performance review and failed to follow the Freedom of Information Act, according to Louise Cooper with the Governor's Office of Economic Development.

One board member, Richard Smith, resigned last week over frustration with Fryar's termination.

As a result of being put on reimbursement status the agency was required to hand back several million to the state that had been advanced, Smith said.

Normally, the state gives the money to the agency up front, then the agency directly helps clients. However, under reimbursement status the agency must first help clients out of pocket and then ask for compensation from the state.

The Waccamaw EOC is perpetually low on funds and has had to scale back aid as a result, according to a letter the board sent to the state asking for relief.

Smith said the board's lack of regard for its own bylaws played a role in his resignation.

"All of the issues are the fault of the board not the staff," said Smith, referring to a recent state audit which found several board violations.

The audit completed by the Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity March 26 found board members were using their position on the board to help friends, held improper elections for board officers, and board members were interfering with the day-to-day operations of the agency.

"They have a total disregard for the bylaws that govern our operations and I want no part of that board," Smith said. "I want to make clear it is not the entire board, just a majority."

The board of directors is expected to meet on May 25, to hold elections for new board officers, as required by the corrective action plan filed with the OEO.