Waccamaw EOC holds another illegal closed door session

HEMINGWAY | The Waccamaw Economic Opportunity Council met in another illegal closed door session Tuesday night where members discussed the Choppee Head Start Center, among other things.

Board Chairman Zacharius Grate didn't want to say specifically the subjects the board talked about in the executive meeting which listed legal, contractural and personnel issues as the reason for making the public leave the room.

Pressed about it after the session, though, he said, "Certainly we discussed the Choppee Head Start Center."

Work was halted on the facility in Georgetown County last month, just weeks after it begun even though the agency had not secured a loan to pay for the more than $800,000 cost.

The agency has tried unsuccessfully for at least 1 1/2 years to secure a loan, but has been unable to do so.

Nevertheless, board members have doggedly pursued the project even though it will not accommodate as many Head Start students as are currently in classes scattered throughout the county and transportation costs are likely to rise significantly to get studetns to the new facility.

State law would not allow a discussion about the project's problems behind closed doors. The law requires that closed door contractural discussion be limited to negotiations of pending contracts.

The session lasted less than an hour, much shorter than other closed door meetings the board has held frequently since this time last year, when it was cited in a state audit for board irregularities. Two-hour executive sessions were normal for a time, with one lasting a full three hours.

Grate and other board members have repeatedly said the discussions included things which are not legal in a closed session under the state's Open Meetings Law.

Board member James Scott said after Tuesday's meeting that Grate updated board members on the status of the Choppee project during the closed door session.

"He talked to us about that," Scott said, "told us where things were."