HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The former CEO of Coast RTA has filed a federal lawsuit that claims his 2014 firing was due to his age and race.
According to court documents filed March 3 in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Myers Rollins, 64, named the transportation authority, its board of directors and former chairman Bernard Silverman as defendants.
"Plaintiff contends that defendants discriminated against him by terminating his employment because of his race (African-American) and age over 40," the lawsuit stated. "Plaintiff further asserts that defendant retaliated against him for having complained that Defendant's created a hostile working environment for him, by circulating false and mean spirited rumors against Plaintiff and members of his staff by a member of the Board of Directors."
Rollins is asking for the court to "rescind the wrongful termination" and reinstate his employment; grant full front and back pay; grant compensatory damages for the "humiliation, mental anguish, emotional distress, and other damages caused by Defendant's conduct; grant punitive damages; grant all employment benefits he would have received had he not been "discriminated and retaliated against;" and other relief.
According to court documents, the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined that evidence supports Rollins' allegations that he was fired based on his race and age.
"The evidence shows that several Board Members explicitly expressed bias against Charging Party because of his race and age with respect to assessing his performance, which caused his discharge," the EEOC's determination stated.
Also included in the court documents was a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice dated Dec. 2, 2016, which stated the agency would not file suit against the Coast RTA based on the EEOC's charge of discrimination. Rollins was told he had 90 days to commence civil action.
Rollins also requested the U.S. District Court appoint counsel to represent him in the court proceedings.
"I understand that if the court does not appoint an attorney, I must be prepared to represent myself going forward in this case," the court documents stated.
In his request for counsel, Rollins noted that he filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in July 2016, filed for SNAP food assistance in December 2016 and lost his home to foreclosure last month.
On Monday, Rollins did not wish to comment on the lawsuit, saying it "speaks for itself."
Michelle Cantey, spokesperson for Coast RTA, said it is policy not to comment on pending litigation.
In an April 2014 interview with WMBF News, Rollins said he had turned the agency back from the brink of disaster during his nine-year tenure, which ran from 2005 to 2014.
Rollins pointed to his running a budget surplus for seven years, leading the state in ridership growth year to year, and getting the employees health insurance, holidays, and acceptance into the state retirement plan.
WMBF News partner MyHorryNews reported that Rollins sued the state Department of Transportation and his former employer in state court following his termination.
He blamed state officials for mishandling a shelter project and called his firing "improper and baseless." Rollins asked the court to reinstate him as Coast's general manager, guarantee him back pay and benefits, and award him $5 million in damages, according to MyHorryNews.
Rollins later rejected a settlement offer and cut ties with his civil attorneys, saying in court papers that they were pressuring him to accept a settlement he didn't believe was fair. His lawsuit was dismissed in March 2016, but he filed a similar complaint in state court the following month, MyHorryNews reported.