Waccamaw EOC board changes fact to fiction

CONWAY | The board of the Waccamaw Economic Opportunity Council voted Tuesday night to change fact to fiction by deleting items from the official minutes of the Jan. 25 meeting that actually took place.

Board member Eddie Woods Jr., the only one to vote against making the changes to the minutes, called "mind-boggling" the deletion in the minutes of references to votes concerning a search for an executive director of the agency and of reconsidering the refusal to seat a former board member who was reelected in a public vote last year.

"It looks like flim-flam," Woods, a Williamsburg County councilman, said after the meeting adjourned. "It doesn't look too cohesive, I'll tell you that."

Woods survived a vote to remove him from the board earlier in the meeting. That vote was taken by secret ballot in a an executive session, which is clearly against state law. The S.C. Open Meetings Law says that all votes by public bodies must be made in open session.

Jerry Harper, the board's secretary, said the secret ballot in the closed session was OK because the board's bylaws say that will be the process when it considers removing a member. Harper did not announce the number of votes for and against removing Woods.

Board chairman Zacharius Grate wouldn't comment on changing the minutes of the Jan. 25 meeting. Grate said he wouldn't comment because he wasn't present at that meeting.

He said questions about changing the minutes would have to be directed to David Eagleton, the board's first vice chairman, who chaired the Jan. 25 meeting in Grate's absence.

Eagleton left Tuesday night's meeting immediately after it adjourned and wasn't available to answer questions.

Board members John Batistte, Tommy Mitchum, Willie Sparkman, Isabelle McKnight and Susan Sejda refused to comment on the vote.

McKnight, Sejda and Batistte were the board members who were involved in the actions that were deleted from the minutes. Eagleton said during the Jan. 25 meeting that he didn't want to do as they requested, but the majority of the board overrode his objections and voted to proceed with what the three wanted.

In one instance, the board voted to recall two candidates for executive director for new interviews and to hire one or the other after the board's first choice for the position turned down the job offer.

In the other, the board voted to discuss in executive session its previous refusal to seat former board member Ruby Rogers after she was reelected in a public vote by residents of a district that centers on Myrtle Beach.

The board has not yet scheduled another vote to fill the seat, which has been vacant since last summer.

Rogers was among the majority of the board who resigned last year at the request of state legislators in an attempt to resolve problems on the board that were uncovered in a March audit by the state.

Contact Steve Jones at 444-1765.