Lawmakers ask EOC board to resign

Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties' legislative delegations have asked for resignations from all members of the Waccamaw Economic Council board of directors, effective immediately, said Rep. Thad Viers, R-Myrtle Beach.

The board was sent letters Thursday that were expected to be in mailboxes on Friday, Viers said.

Waccamaw EOC Chairman Zach Grate said he had not yet received a letter.

"I do not think I want to discuss that," said Grate, about whether he would resign. "I have to wait and see the letter first before I can comment."

Viers said the local delegation made the request because of the board of directors' "absolute refusal to comply with a basic audit" from the Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity.

The audit, which was released March 26, found several board member bylaw violations, including one finding that board members refused to turn over e-mails. The audit also found that board members were interfering with day-to-day operations, allegations that board members used their positions to help friends, improper elections and a lack of grievance procedures.

The delegation could ask for an investigation from the State Law Enforcement Division and the attorney general's office if board members do not resign, he said.

"They are resisting every step of the way, and it raises a lot of red flags," Viers said. "It doesn't pass the smell test. Why wouldn't you comply with state and federal authority?"

Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach, said he also signed the letter asking for the board's resignation because of the agency's refusal to comply with the state.

"During a time of economic crisis, we need now more than ever to be able to account for every dollar," Clemmons said. "Personally, I am quite concerned that funding will be affected for services to the poor community."

If the board continues to be non-compliant, the Waccamaw EOC could be shut down by the state. The Waccamaw EOC receives about $8 million a year in grant funding through the OEO for weatherization, job training, early childhood education and utility bill assistance programs in Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties.

"I have faith and trust these board members will do the right thing by the community they serve and step aside so that the board can properly be reconstituted," Clemmons said.

One board member, Richard Smith, said he resigned last week frustrated with the board's disregard for adhering to its own bylaws.

Another board member, James Frazier, tried to resign Tuesday because he did not like the way things were going, but was convinced to stay on.

"Some of the other board members asked me to please stay on until we could sort through this mess," Frazier said.

He said he had not checked his mailbox Friday and did not know if he had received the delegation's letter.

"I don't blame them one bit in the world," Frazier said about the delegation's request.

Frazier said he would have no problems resigning from the board. "They have got too many problems," Frazier said. "One person can't change the mind of 15 people."

The state OEO has given the Waccamaw EOC several deadlines to reach full compliance, which the agency has missed. The state recently asked the EOC to return about $2 million the state had sent as advance funding to aid clients by May 3. The Waccamaw EOC did not meet the deadline, according to Louise Cooper, director of the Office of Economic Opportunity.

The Waccamaw EOC also was asked to have new elections for board officers and appoint new members to its commissions before May 25. The board is next scheduled to meet on May 25 to hold the elections, which is after the state deadline.

The board continued to violate its bylaws even after the state audit, according to the state. It voted April 27 to fire its executive director without giving a 10-day public notice that her performance was under review, as required by their bylaws.

The board voted Tuesday to reinstate its executive director, but the action did not lift state restrictions. The agency remains on a reimbursement status, meaning the agency, which does not have much readily available funds, must first provide service and then seek state compensation.