MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The CEO of Coast RTA, the Grand Strand's public bus transportation system, was fired Wednesday morning, and an interim CEO and general manager was named.
The board of the bus service voted 6 to 2 to terminate Myers Rollins at a board meeting Wednesday morning. Following the meeting, the board went into executive session and picked an interim CEO, Julie Norton-Dew.
For months, Myers Rollins' future at Coast RTA had been on the ropes. However, it was the last couple of months that brought the reality of what his leadership was doing to the agency's reputation to the board.
The county council was threatening to pull funding for the agency. Some of the grant projects under Rollins' control were drowning in controversy.
First, a bus shelter project that, no matter what Rollins tried to do, could not get traction.
The Federal Highway Administration didn't like the delays in getting the shelters up; in turn, SCDOT terminated the project. The project cost taxpayers more than $300,000.
In an interview with WMBF News, Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said, "Well, first of all, we're not in the business to make mistakes and try to learn. We're beyond that."
"These are professionals, and they shouldn't be making these mistakes," Lazarus added.
Secondly, the Intermodal Transportation Center, project was halted due to another miscount on Rollins' part.
A federal grant was ready to cover the multi-million dollar project; then, county officials say Rollins went over the heads of SCDOT and spent more than $70,000 on a consultant that was not approved. The money would not be reimbursed.
Add the two costly errors to the county forming a special committee to determine whether Horry taxpayers should even continue to support Coast RTA, and the board will admit they had the perfect opportunity for appeasement.
"We absolutely need county support. We know [Horry County council] had that committee and made it clear what they wanted. Maybe we gave them what they wanted," said Bernie Silverman, Coast RTA Board Chairman.
Ivory Wilson was one of two board members who did not vote with the majority. He calls Rollins the best general manager Coast RTA has had in its 30-year history. He calls this morning pre-planned ambush unfair, at best.
Wilson said, "I don't understand it. I do think it was a conspiracy. It wasn't because Myers Rollins didn't manage things right. He did an outstanding job of managing."
"This is what the county wanted, and we'll get our money from the county now," he added.
During a recent conversation with Rollins, WMBF News asked him about the give and take of the political controversy that was swirling around him. He knew the county had made him a target and he welcomed their spotlight.
David Klugh: How far do you feel you have to bend politically, just to keep stuff like this at bay, keep as many people happy as possible, so that you can focus on what you need to focus on, and that's running a mass transit system?
Myers Rollins: Well, that's a challenge ... every day, I try to get better. And what I've always said, David, is I'm gonna make a mistake everyday. What I try not to do, is make the same mistake every day.
The Coast RTA board clearly is no longer willing to take that chance.
Julie Norton-Dew, who was the Coast RTA's Deputy General Manager of Finance and Administration/CFO, was named at the board meeting as the interim CEO and General Manager to replace Rollins.
Interestingly, Myers Rollins was fired without cause, based on the terms of the contract he drew up for himself. He was looking out for himself as well.
Rollins leaves with the equivalent of a six-month severance package, totaling more than $70,000.
The board announced Wednesday it will take at least two months to find a replacement for Myers Rollins.
The search won't even begin for a couple weeks.
Rollins was recently the subject of an investigative report by WMBF News Anchor David Klugh. Read and watch this report here: http://www.wmbfnews.com/story/25312620/under-the-bus-wmbf-investigates-controversy-at-coast-rta.