After a brief executive session Monday, Columbus County commissioners voted to cancel the Lake Waccamaw EMS contract with the county.
The motion was suggested by County Manager Eddie Madden and Asst. Manager Nick West, who is in charge of the county’s emergency services. Commissioner Charles McDowell made the motion, which passed six to one. Commissioner Giles “Buddy” Byrd cast the sole opposing vote.
The measure was added to the agenda after the executive session, which was called for discussion of three pending legal matters and one personnel issue.
The board adjourned its meeting shortly after the vote.
No reason was given for the cancellation of the contract. County Spokeswoman Amanda Prince said the county has made arrangements with other emergency medical providers to maintain coverage in the area. LWEMS will officially go off duty with the county in 90 days, Prince said. The department received $10,543 annually from the county, plus additional fees and revenues from billing.
LWEMS Chief Shannon Worrell made headlines recently after making derogatory comments to a same-sex couple at the Whiteville San Jose Mexican restaurant. Worrell is also alleged to have made several insulting remarks about Latinos while at the business. He was caught on surveillance camera deriding a woman over her sexual orientation after a dispute over a bill.
Worrell was not on duty or in uniform at the time. County officials said last week that the matter was being investigated.
The former chief took to Facebook around midnight Monday to address the contract’s cancellation and the restaurant incident.
Worrell stated that he had “resigned my position of nearly thirty years.
“I have been told that the county is terminating the LW EMS contract regardless. I do not understand this decision in regards to the department as there are numerous other members that were not involved.”
Worrell said that he would not “defend or share any negative comments on the alleged events that led up to this.” He said he had apologized on social media, and “offered and attempted to meet with San Jose staff and managers.”
He said he resigned to protect the department, which he feels has been targeted as a whole because of the incident. He said he was not given the opportunity to discuss the incident with county EMS or town officials.
“I was called numerous names as can be seen on the post with complaints from workers of San Jose in Whiteville…Decisions have been without me being given the chance to speak to local government . These events that are alleged has nothing to do with LW EMS so I don’t understand why the entire department has to suffer from some of my poor decisions.
“I would like to conclude by saying I am sorry to the community, all involved, and the department.”
It was not the first time Worrell has been at the center of a controversy with Lake Waccamaw.
Lake Waccamaw Rescue Auxiliary was founded after Worrell, his wife Lynn, and several members of the Lake Waccamaw Fire and Rescue station left the town’s fire department. Then-Town Manager Darren Currie discharged Eddie Morgan, who was fire chief at the time. The fire department was shut down for a period due to missing records, failed inspections and other issues. Jerry Gore was hired to replace Morgan, and brought the department back into compliance.
The Worrells established the rescue service after a lawsuit against the town over boats, ambulances, a crash truck and other equipment that the Auxiliary helped purchase through fundraisers. The courts eventually gave some of the property to the town’s fire department, and some to the EMS service.
This is a developing story.