Waccamaw aid council fills out its ranks

Waccamaw Economic Opportunity Council members followed their success last week of satisfying immediate state requirements to stay in business by electing a new 2nd vice chair and seating five new board members at a special meeting Thursday night.

The two actions helped to satisfy lingering state requirements to reconstitute the board that was decimated by resignations in recent months and to elect a full slate of board officers.

The state has given the agency 60 days to complete the tasks.

The addition of the new board members brings the board to a total of 11 members. The total board includes 15 seats, some of whom designated as representatives of the poor are elected by residents in Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties, which the agency serves.

At a recent meeting in Hemingway, the board accepted the results of a special board member recall election and officially removed former board member Abdullah Mustafa from his seat at the table and position as 2nd vice chair. Mustafa was at the center of board improprieties detailed after a March audit by the S.C. Office of Economic Opportunity.

He and the Rev. Wade Sessions, another board member, were originally elected in votes that were held improperly, according to the state audit. Additionally, Mustafa was one of several board members found to be improperly interfering in the agency's day-to-day activities.

Other board members said they would no longer interfere improperly, but Mustafa said he had done so to help the low-income residents the agency serves and would continue to do so.

Mustafa was charged Tuesday by Horry County police with pointing and presenting a firearm. Police say he walked into the bedroom of a woman in Little River, waking her and a male friend.

Sessions' original election was confirmed by voters in a second special election, both of which were held in Conway.

Thursday's board meeting convened more than a half hour past the time it was scheduled to begin as most of the six who were members before the meeting arrived late.

A sixth board member was approved during the meeting, but she was not present to be formally seated.

Board member John Battiste was elected 2nd vice chair, and new member Jerry Harper was elected to the executive board.

Board Chairman Zach Grate said two more board members will be seated during the group's meeting Sept. 28 in Georgetown, at which time board committee assignments are to be made.

The members seated at Thursday's special meeting were designated representatives of the private and public sectors. Unlike the representatives of the poor, who are elected, the others are nominated by organizations and governments and then voted on by the seating board members.

Five members of the 15-person board represent each the public sector, the private sector and the poor.

After a more than hourlong executive session, board members agreed to advertise for the position of the agency's executive director. Board members fired former executive director Beth Fryar at the meeting in Hemingway, and the action to advertise signaled they do not intend to rescind that, as they did when they previously fired Fryar earlier this year.

Fryar's lawyer has written the board to tell them that it is illegal to fire anyone who is on leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, as Fryar has been for about a month.