Ousted Waccamaw Economic Opportunity Council member fires back (with video)

Former Waccamaw Economic Opportunity Council board member Abdullah Mustafa said Wednesday evening that his recent removal from the board was the result of "a very carefully and purposeful character assassination" rather than because voters rejected him in a reassessment election last month.

He rejected the validity of the reassessment election, a process that was agreed to by board members to correct a finding in a March audit of the agency. He said the election, which resulted in a 54-29 vote against him, is not outlined in the agency's bylaws and that only those who originally elected him to the board in 2009 should have been allowed to vote in the reassessment.

He called EOC board chairman Zacharius Grate "unqualified and unprepared," and insisted the board was goaded into holding the reassessment election by Louise Cooper, director of the S.C. Office of Economic Opportunity, which oversees the Conway-based agency.

Neither Grate nor Cooper could be reached for comment Wednesday night.

The state audit that found that Mustafa's original election had been held improperly also found that he improperly interfered in the agency's day-to-day operations, a charge Mustafa also rejected Wednesday in a press conference at Darden Terrace in Conway that drew a handful of supporters, one television station and one newspaper.

On a table at the outdoor event were three petitions for which Mustafa's supporters were seeking signatures. One was a petition specifically for the voters in the 2009 election saying that their vote to seat Mustafa had been illegally negated by the reassessment election last month. A second sought names, addresses and telephone numbers of people who have had problems getting services from the agency. The third called for a federal audit of the agency.

Among other things, Mustafa said in his press conference that agency money had been lavished on employees rather than spent on the low income residents of Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties, as is intended by the federal grants that funds agency programs.

Mustafa said the reason he was attacked and eventually removed from the board by voters was that he asked uncomfortable questions, such as "What are we going to do about the 1,500 plus people on the waiting list?" and "Where are we going to get the money to help these people?"

Previously though, he did interfere in the agency's day-to-day operations, and said that he did it to help poor people and that he would continue doing it.

Mustafa criticized some news coverage of the agency since problems surfaced earlier this year, insisting that reporters didn't understand what they were writing about and therefore portrayed an incorrect picture.

He further said news coverage of his recent arrest for waving a gun at a former girlfriend and her boyfriend after awakening them in her bed at 5:30 a.m. was wrong and improperly done. He said nothing should have been reported until he could be contacted, even though he was in jail at the time the first reports went out.

Now, Mustafa said wants to initiate a federal lawsuit because voters' rights were violated in the holding of the reassessment election. In addition, he said, he plans to go about the business of helping lift the poor of the area from poverty.