From WMBF News partner MyHorryNews.com:
By Charles D. Perry
Coast RTA on Friday responded to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's finding that race and age were factors in the bus service's decision to fire former CEO Myers Rollins in 2014.
Two days after the Conway NAACP criticized the agency for its treatment of Rollins and cited the EEOC's recent determination as proof of Coast's misconduct, the agency's attorney, T. Foster Haselden, downplayed the significance of the decision in a news release.
"The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) determination regarding Mr. Rollins' discrimination charge is simply an administrative prerequisite to a court action and has no legally binding significance in subsequent litigation," Haselden wrote. "Whether the EEOC determined that cause did, or that cause did not, exist to believe that discrimination had occurred, Mr. Rollins was free to file a discrimination lawsuit either way. … The EEOC is not bound by any evidentiary rules regarding its consideration of information that may or may not be excluded by a court."
Rollins, who ran the bus service for nine years, was fired after controversy erupted over his handling of a long-delayed bus shelter and signage program. State officials canceled the project and cut Coast's funding by more than $375,000.
Following his termination, Rollins sued the state Department of Transportation and his former employer. He blamed state officials for mishandling the shelter project and called his firing "improper and baseless." He asked the court to reinstate him as Coast's general manager, guarantee him back pay and benefits, and award him $5 million in damages.
Rollins later rejected a settlement offer and cut ties with his attorneys, saying in court papers that they were pressuring him to accept a settlement he didn't believe was fair.
Rollins' lawsuit was dismissed March, but he filed a similar one the following month. That case named Coast RTA board members Gary Loftus and Katherine D'Angelo as defendants, as well as Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus, DOT commissioner Mike Wooten and Julie Norton-Dew, Coast's former chief financial officer who briefly ran the agency after Rollins was fired.
That case is still pending and Rollins is acting as his own attorney.
During Wednesday's Coast RTA board meeting, a representative from the Conway NAACP brought up the EEOC letter and vowed the agency would continue to support Rollins until the bus service "made him whole."
Rollins did not attend the meeting, but his sister spoke in support of him as did the Rev. Jerry Faulk, who said he'd long suspected race played a role in the way Rollins was treated during his time running Coast.
"There was a glimpse of racism from the beginning," he said. "He was being treated the way he was treated, not because of his managerial skills, but because of his color. … The recent ruling is clear that racism played a part as well as age discrimination."
Haselden, Coast's lawyer, declined to provide further comment.