Waccamaw EOC stands up for itself

Several members of the community and board members for the Waccamaw Economic Opportunity Council spoke out Tuesday against the state's recent sanctions against the agency.

But even as the board defends itself against allegations of misconduct and violations of its bylaws, it faces very real consequences from the state.

The Waccamaw EOC may not be able to make its payroll in the coming weeks, officials said, unless the agency satisfies the state's concerns.

Board members and staff are expected to meet with the Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity Thursday. The OEO has placed the agency on reimbursement status and asked it to return about $2 million in grant funding several weeks ago because the board failed to come into compliance and continues to violate its bylaws, according to OEO.

The Waccamaw EOC is struggling to make its payroll and pay its bills, said Executive Director Elizabeth Fryar Tuesday.

The agency spent about $61,000 in April providing weatherization and other community service block grant programs and has filed for reimbursement, Fryar said.

"Because we have not gotten that reimbursement yet, and we don't have a line of credit, right now cash-wise our agency is in the hole," Fryar said.

She said the agency will have about $78,000 in bills due next Wednesday, which includes payroll for the agency's 200 employees.

So far the agency has no cash on hand and has trimmed all but necessary items, Fryar said. For example, the agency's cleaning service has been cut.

The agency's staff has a meeting with the bank Wednesday morning to see about drawing down on their line of credit, Fryar said.

The Waccamaw EOC is expected to meet with the OEO on Thursday. If the meeting goes well, they hope it could mean some of the fund restrictions could be lifted at a future date.

The board passed a motion Tuesday to meet with the OEO. If the fund restrictions are not lifted, the board said they would pursue the appeals process.

Board Secretary Isabella McKnight read a statement denouncing the OEO's actions.

She said the OEO has no proof of its allegations and has instead tried the Waccamaw EOC "in the public arena."

In an audit released March 26, the state accused the board of hosting improper elections, interfering in the day-to-day operations of the staff, withholding information from the audit and using their positions on the board to help friends receive Waccamaw EOC services.

McKnight said the state had yet to provide any evidence supporting the allegations.

The board also elected new board officers Tuesday as part of its corrections plan.

Zach Grate will remain the Waccamaw EOC's chairman, McKnight will remain the board's secretary, David Eagleton was elected first vice-chair, Abdullah Mustafah was elected as second vice-chair, Kennedy Johnson was named treasurer and Wade Sessions and John Battiste were elected as members-at-large.