Waccamaw EOC asks for public input

SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) - The Waccamaw Economic Opportunity Council will host two public meetings to ask for public input on whether or not to keep two current board members in their positions or to open the positions for election.

The meetings come as a result of an audit completed in March by the state governor's Office of Economic Opportunity, which funnels federal grant money down to subgrantees like the Waccamaw EOC.

The audit initially turned up problems within the organization's board of directors, including lack of transparency in personnel matters, meddling in the day-to-day operation of the organization by certain board members, and improper election procedures.

A letter to the EOC's board chairman dated Aug. 3 states the OEO remains "highly concerned about the effectiveness and functionality of the board," and further recommends the "removal of Abdullah Mustafa for continued violation of misuse of power." Misuse of power is defined in the EOC's own by-laws as "actions influencing or attempting to influence the operation of programs," even if it does not result in financial gain.

Mustafa says he does not agree with the audit and defends that he has already been properly elected by the people and therefore should not have to go through this polling process.

In the same letter, the OEO recommends that "at the least, the reassessment would include that there be polling of the poor in the area that is to be represented by the seats [and] should polling have a negative result, then re-elections should be held for these seats following the newly minted process."

[See recommendations and a response to the EOC's Quality Improvement Plan (PDF)]

While similar audits are being done around the state, the director of the State Office of Economic Opportunity says the Waccamaw EOC is the only organization that for months has failed to respond with a plan of action to address the concerns.

Tuesday night's meeting will be a step to take corrective action, but even though the Waccamaw EOC posted a notice on the bulletin board in their Conway office, many people in the office said they had not heard about the public meetings.

"I wouldn't have known about it," James Alexander Nance said. "I wouldn't have had [any] idea what was it or where it was gonna be at. I would have been totally unaware."

Nance said he thinks they should have put some flyers out and communicated better with their clients to get the news out to the public.

"Instead of just putting it on the board, I think they should tell people when they come in the door what's going on," client Cassie Quick echoed.

The meetings will take place at the Huckabee Heights Center building, located at 2303 Leonard Ave. in Conway, on Tuesday and Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Tuesday's meeting will poll the community to reasses the position of Abdullah Mustafa. Wednesday's meeting will reasses the position of Wade Sessions.

Anyone from Horry County Area One - which includes the communities of Aynor, Conway, Bucksport, East Conway, Forestbrook, Red Hill, Socastee, Green Sea Floyds, Little River, Longs, and Loris - are asked to attend.

Community members wishing to be polled must be 21 years of age and provide a proof of residency.

State Office of Economic Opportunity Director Louise Cooper said they have informed the Waccamaw EOC that they have till Sept. 3 to make corrections according to the audit, and an additional 60 days for the board to be in place as recommended. If they do not meet the requirements, they could get a termination notice.

Cooper says the doors would likely not shut, but rather they Waccamaw EOC would appeal the decision. If they do ultimately pull the plug on funding, however, another agency would come in and take over temporarily to distribute the federal grant monies.

Cooper says in regards to financial oversight, the Office of Economic Opportunity reviews the Waccamaw EOC's external audit reports annually.

The Office of Economic Opportunity is also required to conduct a fiscal audit every third year.  A fiscal audit was started in March, along with the board audit.  Findings in the board audit caused the fiscal audit to be placed on hold.

The last OEO fiscal audit of Waccamaw was done December 2007. The current fiscal audit will be completed by December.

Copyright 2010 WMBF News. All rights reserved.