Post Tagged with: "Arrigo Carotti"

County Committee Stops Attempt to Restrict Gun Rights

October 14, 2020 11:07 AM
County Committee Stops Attempt to Restrict Gun Rights

The latest attempt to restrict the gun rights of Horry County citizens was stopped by a 3-1 No vote of the county’s Public Safety Committee Tuesday.

The vote defeated a motion by county council member Gary Loftus to send a new ordinance to full county council that would have seriously restricted the gun rights of citizens in the unincorporated areas of the county.

The ordinance, as proposed, would have affected a number of gun clubs being able to hunt on their club grounds as well as restricted citizens from hunting on their private property.

In addition, the ordinance proposed to allow individual council members to establish an overlay on their district to restrict gun use in violation of state law.

If passed, it is distinctly possible that citizens in council districts three and four, for example, could not have fired guns anywhere in the district while citizens in, say, districts ten and eleven would have not been affected at all.

Under provisions of equal application of the law, enumerated in state law as well as the 14th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, such restrictions not applied equally throughout the county would be unconstitutional.

I chose council districts three and four in the above example because, according to numerous sources, council members Loftus and Dennis DiSabato worked closely with county attorney Arrigo Carotti in crafting the proposed ordinance.

This is at least the fifth time this issue has come up in the last eight years. Every time it has been strongly opposed by a number of citizens and in council votes.

Last year, local radio talk show host Chad Caton told council it should concentrate on local needs such as infrastructure rather than attempting to infringe on 2nd Amendment rights.

This is doubly true now. The proposed ordinance was so removed from reality to make one wonder why it was even attempted.

The Ninth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals, among the most liberal in the nation, recently struck down a California law restricting the size of ammunition magazines. With the inevitable addition of Amy Coney Barrett on the U. S. Supreme Court, there will be a solid conservative 6-3 vote against any attempt to infringe on the rights outlined in the 2nd Amendment.

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SkyDive Myrtle Beach Lawsuit Advances to Deposition Stage

September 8, 2020 4:26 AM
SkyDive Myrtle Beach Lawsuit Advances to Deposition Stage

After being delayed for six months due to Covid 19 restrictions, depositions in the lawsuit SkyDive Myrtle Beach v. Horry County et al will begin September 30, 2020.

The lawsuit evolved from the county shutting down operations of SDMB and evicting them from the North Myrtle Beach airport using a Director’s Report from the FAA in which 112 alleged safety violations played a large part in the FAA claiming SDMB operations at Grand Strand Airport were unsafe.

This is where things get tricky. The county used an informal means of reporting the alleged safety violations, a county generated form called an “Unusual Incident Report”.

When responding to a Freedom of Information Request for documentation associated with these reports, the county responded by sending the Unusual Incident Reports but no supporting documentation.

A short memorandum from county attorney Arrigo Carotti included with the FOIA response said, “These records are provided in an abundance of caution, in that each may or may not demonstrate violation by Skydive Myrtle Beach of Horry County Department of Airports Minimum Standards, as that assessment has not been undertaken.”

In other words, the county reported SDMB had committed 112 safety violations without ever investigating any, according to Carotti’s memo.

When a FOIA request for documentation on the 112 alleged safety violations was sent to the FAA, the response from Thomas A Winston, Manager Flight Standards Division, Southern Region of the FAA was, “You requested information regarding 112 allegations of safety violations used to make the table in the Director’s Report dated October 7, 2015 by Randall Fiertz. We searched our files maintained in the South Carolina Flight Standards District Office. We could not find any documents responsive to your request.”

The FAA had no documents supporting any of the 112 alleged safety violations. Anytime a suspected safety violation has taken place at an FAA regulated airport, a Mandatory Occurrence Report is supposed to be filed with the FAA and entered into the CEDAR (Comprehensive Electronic Data Analysis and Reporting) system. . No MORs were found in the FAA system with respect to the alleged violations by SDMB.

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County Council Refused to Discuss Extension of Emergency Ordinance

September 4, 2020 5:08 AM
County Council Refused to Discuss Extension of Emergency Ordinance

Using a parliamentary ruse that was erroneous, a majority of Horry County Council voted to have no discussion before extending, for 60 more days, the emergency ordinance controlling countywide requirements and restrictions with respect to the ongoing Covid 19 situation.

Council member Al Allen requested the item calling for an extension of the emergency ordinance be moved from the consent agenda, where there is no discussion on any item before a vote, to a discussion item, where discussion of the extension would have occurred before a vote.

Immediately upon Allen making the request the ruse began. Council member Dennis DiSabato called a point of order stating that changing the agenda in such a matter requires a two-thirds majority vote of council.

County attorney Arrigo Carotti, who also acts as council’s parliamentarian, confirmed to council that this was a requirement.

Subsequent to Carotti’s input, a vote was held in which a motion to move the item to discussion failed by a 5-7 vote with the Deep Six (DiSabato, Harold Worley, Bill Howard, Cam Crawford, Gary Loftus and Tyler Servant) plus Orton Bellamy voting no.

The entire episode appeared to be orchestrated. I don’t believe DiSabato is sharp enough to come up with the objection he raised on his own and Carotti was too quickly on his feet to support DiSabato’s objection.

Orchestrated or not, voting on any council member’s request to move an item from the consent agenda to the regular, or discussion, agenda is counter to over 20 years of precedent on the council dais.

I have covered many county council meetings in the last two decades since the use of a consent agenda came into being under Chad Prosser’s term as chairman. Prosser initiated the consent agenda to accommodate the many rezoning requests of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s by not having each read and considered separately when the reading did not require public review.

Numerous times over that span, a council member has requested an item be moved from consent agenda to a discussion item. The move was always made by the chairman without a vote. I cannot recall one instance in which the change was even questioned.

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First Anniversary of the Plot to Smear Council Chairman Johnny Gardner

December 20, 2019 3:00 AM
First Anniversary of the Plot to Smear Council Chairman Johnny Gardner

Exactly one year ago today former county administrator Chris Eldridge, former council chairman Mark Lazarus and county attorney Arrigo Carotti went public with a plot to attempt to overturn the will of the voters by smearing incoming county chairman Johnny Gardner on the day of his swearing in.

In the week prior, Carotti had authored a five-page memo, with input from Eldridge and Lazarus, attempting to portray Gardner as being involved in a plot to extort money from the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation.

The memo was sent to council members as ‘Attorney Client Privileged’ in an attempt to try and give some official weight to the narrative and, within 12 hours, leaked to a Columbia media outlet to make the story public. The supposed facts in the memo were entirely fictitious.

As soon as the leaked story was published on the internet, complete with a copy of Carotti’s memo, Eldridge sent the memo to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division requesting an investigation.

Within a one day period, the plotters had linked the name ‘Gardner’ to the word ‘extortion’, spread the story statewide and used the publishing of the story as an excuse to contact SLED.

It was an email from Lazarus to Eldridge that first brought SLED into the conversation.

The problem was the story was complete fiction, But that didn’t stop the plotters. The apparent objective was to get Gardner to step aside from the office he had been elected to so that Lazarus could reclaim it. (At the time, apparently unaware of the provisions for filling a vacancy in a county office, they thought the Governor could make an appointment to fill the void and that appointment would be Lazarus who had been defeated by Gardner at the polls.

Within another 24 hours, the entire plot began to fall apart.

Carotti used alleged statements made by Sandy Davis, President and CEO of the MBREDC to both himself and Eldridge as a major source for his narrative, as well as a recording of a lunch meeting between Gardner, Davis and two others.

When contacted by media for comment about the Carotti memo, Davis was quoted responding about the memo, “A lot of it was fabricated.”

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Discovery Imminent in Skydive Myrtle Beach Case Remanded to District Court

October 13, 2019 7:42 AM
Discovery Imminent in Skydive Myrtle Beach Case Remanded to District Court

Discovery requests for production of documents, answers to interrogatories and depositions will go out very shortly in the lawsuit that Skydive Myrtle Beach (SDMB) filed against Horry County, the Horry County Department of Airports (HCDA), Robinson Aviation and numerous individuals associated with those entities.

After hearing arguments by the opposing parties in the case last spring, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed prior decisions by the Fifteenth Circuit Court and S. C. Court of Appeals and remanded that case back to district court for trial.

In October 2015, Horry County government evicted Skydive Myrtle Beach from Grand Strand Airport using a 73 page Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Director’s Determination as justification. Much of the Director’s Determination report was based on 112 safety violations allegedly committed by SDMB.

The alleged safety violations were recorded on a form generated by the HCDA, called an “Unusual Incident Report”. They are one page reports signed either by HCDA staff members or Robinson Aviation personnel. In one case, five alleged violations were reported by letter to the FAA from former HCDA Director Pat Apone.

No record of any action, other than the filling out of these forms, by either HCDA or Robinson Aviation, the contracted tower operator at Grand Strand Airport, was taken. It appears the forms were created to establish a paper record of alleged safety violations with no backup investigations to support the allegations.

These forms were the ones county attorney Arrigo Carotti provided in response to an FOIA request. Along with that response was a cover letter by Carotti which stated in part, “These records are provided in an abundance of caution, in that each may or may not demonstrate violation by Skydive Myrtle Beach of Horry County Department of Airports Minimum Standards, as that assessment has not been undertaken.”

On at least three occasions since the Director’s Determination was published, the FAA has admitted in email correspondence regarding Freedom of Information Act requests that it has no documentation with respect to investigations, fines or other information on the alleged 112 violations.

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County Government Fault Lines Exposed on Fire Department Morale Issue

July 12, 2019 6:42 AM
County Government Fault Lines Exposed on Fire Department Morale Issue

The exchange at Tuesday night’s council meeting between council member Danny Hardee, Fire Chief Joseph Tanner and Deputy Chief Jack Walker highlighted some of the problems that must be fixed in the inner workings of Horry County Government.

Speaking as a point of personal privilege, Hardee talked directly to the top two fire department officials about morale and other personnel issues within the department.

As Chairman of the county’s Public Safety Committee, Hardee was trying to do the right thing, but he did it the wrong way.

Under state law governing the county’s council/administrator form of government, Hardee should have been addressing administrator Steve Gosnell, not the heads of a county department. The following extract from Title IV of state law applies:

“SECTION 4‑9‑660. Authority of council and its members over county officers and employees.

Except for the purposes of inquiries and investigations, the council shall deal with county officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the county administrator solely through the administrator, and neither the council nor its members shall give orders or instructions to any such officers or employees.”

Hardee was not speaking to the two fire officers as part of any formal inquiry or investigation. According to his own statement, Hardee was speaking from notes he took from informal meetings he has held with fire department personnel in various fire stations throughout the county.

There was a breakdown of protocol at several levels as Hardee spoke. Council Chairman Johnny Gardner should have gaveled down Hardee for being out of order. He did not.

Administrator Gosnell should have told Hardee such a conversation should be held between the administrator and council member, but not during a regular meeting of council as it involved employees who work for the administrator, not council. He did not.

County Attorney Arrigo Carotti should have told Hardee the conversation was not proper under state law and that such remarks should be addressed to the administrator during a meeting between the administrator and council member, otherwise legal issues could arise.

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Another Hospitality Fee Filing, Another Email, More County Lunacy

July 2, 2019 1:21 PM
Another Hospitality Fee Filing, Another Email, More County Lunacy

The City of Myrtle Beach filed a supplemental memorandum Monday in support of its lawsuit against Horry County’s continued collection of hospitality fees.

Leading the memorandum is an affidavit by North Myrtle Beach City Manager Michael Mahaney providing evidence of the county’s continued collection of the hospitality fee in the City of North Myrtle Beach after June 21, 2019, and supporting a June 26, 2019 motion by Myrtle Beach for the county to show cause why it was not in contempt of a temporary restraining order issued by Judge Seals on June 21, 2019 prohibiting same.

Included in the filing was an email originated by attorney Henrietta Golding who is representing the county in the lawsuit.

The email appears to have evolved out of the string of emails that were the subject of several media stories yesterday. The email that appears to have started the string was sent by former county council chairman Mark Lazarus to Golding.

In her email, Goldings criticizes the judge and the temporary restraining order the judge issued against the county for having “many errors”; states, “This is solely the fault of Myrtle Beach” and appears to discuss the county’s strategy in moving forward by saying the county will try to get a “supersedeas” and saying “if the county took steps to suspend the ordinance (creating the hospitality fee), then probably create legal issues detrimental to the county.”

Golding’s email was sent to Lazarus, county council members Johnny Vaught, Harold Worley, Tyler Servant and Dennis DiSabato, interim administrator Steve Gosnell, county attorney Arrigo Carotti, North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley, Mahaney and Surfside Beach City Manager Dennis Pieper.

The choice of recipients is confusing as Golding only represents six – the four council members, county administrator and county attorney. Lazarus has no official position with the county since his term ended December 31, 2018. Hatley, Mahaney and Pieper support the position of Myrtle Beach that the county has been illegally collecting the hospitality fees since January 1, 2017 when the original sunset provision of the county hospitality fee ordinance expired.

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Time to End the County’s Hospitality Fee Lunacy

July 1, 2019 11:11 AM
Time to End the County’s Hospitality Fee Lunacy

Events occurring over the last week served to magnify the need for the county and the cities to get past the lunacy that has developed over the county’s efforts to continue collecting a countywide Hospitality Fee that is in all likelihood now illegal.

Myrtle Beach initially filed a lawsuit against the county “for itself and “similarly situated plaintiffs” on March 21, 2019 stating its claims against the county’s continued collection of the hospitality fee and requesting a temporary restraining order on the county’s continued collection of the fee while the case was being litigated.

After District Court Judge Seals issued a temporary restraining order on the county’s continued collection of a 1.5% hospitality fee within the City of Myrtle Beach and “similarly situated plaintiffs”, on June 21, 2019, the cities expected the county to stop collecting the fee within their jurisdictions.

Last Tuesday, the county dashed those expectations by sending out an email announcing it would only stop collecting the fee within Myrtle Beach and would continue to collect it in the other cities in the county as well as the unincorporated areas.

This led to outrage from North Myrtle Beach officials who called the county’s continued collection of the fee within their city “illegal.” In addition, Myrtle Beach filed a new motion requesting the county be required to show cause that it was not in contempt of the judge’s order.

With the angry rhetoric flying, a special meeting of county council was called for June 29, 2019 at which council was expected to vote on a recommendation to suspend collection of the fee within the cities until the lawsuit was settled.

Instead, council convened, immediately went into executive session where, according to sources with knowledge of the discussion, county attorney Arrigo Carotti and attorney Henrietta Golding, representing the county in the case, urged council to “stay the course” and continue collecting the fee in the other cities until ordered not to by the Court. In addition, the attorneys reportedly told council the judge had used the wrong standard of review in making his ruling. Golding filed a request for reconsideration of the ruling and was prepared to take the issue to the S. C. Supreme Court where, she told council, she expected the restraining order would be overturned.

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Horry County Bungled Hospitality Fee Issue

June 28, 2019 7:00 AM
Horry County Bungled Hospitality Fee Issue

Horry County officials look like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight with respect to a Hospitality Fee issue that county government has bungled for at least the past three years.

In a MyHorryNews.com story yesterday, council member Johnny Vaught tried to pass off the latest brouhaha over the continued collection by the county of a 1.5% hospitality fee in every city except Myrtle Beach as a “mistake” because of a misinterpretation of a June 21, 2019 judge’s temporary restraining order.

The order, signed by Judge Seals, suspended collection of the hospitality fee by Horry County in the “City of Myrtle Beach for Itself and a Class of Similarly Situated Plaintiffs,” as the lawsuit is titled.

Additionally, the order denied a request by Horry County that a temporary restraining order be placed against the cities with respect to collection of new accommodations and hospitality taxes the cities respectively passed and are scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2019.

One of the county’s arguments in requesting a TRO against the new city taxes was that they would illegally exceed local hospitality and accommodations tax limits mandated by state law when taken in conjunction with the county hospitality fee.

The city hospitality and accommodations tax ordinances were passed in accordance with entirely separate sections of state law and have nothing to do with the uniform service charge hospitality fee in question, a point I’m not sure county officials entirely understand.

The new city hospitality tax is collected on prepared food and beverages only. The countywide uniform service charge hospitality fee is collected on accommodations, prepared food and beverages, admissions and rental car fees.

On June 25, 2019, the county sent an email to the cities stating it would continue to collect the 1.5% hospitality fee everywhere except within the city limits of Myrtle Beach where it said collection of the fee was temporarily suspended pending final settlement of the lawsuit.

The county’s email immediately caused an outcry from the other cities in the county, led by North Myrtle Beach, which issued a statement saying the county was attempting to continue to “illegally” collect the hospitality fee in the other cities.

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Horry County and Illegality are Becoming Synonymous

June 27, 2019 10:44 AM
Horry County and Illegality are Becoming Synonymous

For the past week, Horry County and illegal have been combined in local media headlines about several issues..

Wednesday was a banner day for the county in such actions. Not only did Jay Bender, the preeminent legal authority on the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, say county council conducted an illegal executive session but also lawyers for the City of Myrtle Beach went to court requesting the judge to find the county “in contempt of the authority of this Court” for apparently violating a court order issued last Friday with respect to the county’s continued collection of the Hospitality Fee.

The actions that led to executive session were well orchestrated. After council member Johnny Vaught made the motion to go into executive session, council chairman correctly called it out of order because no executive session was listed on the agenda. County attorney and council parliamentarian Arrigo Carotti jumped up to say under Robert’s Rules of Order, a motion for executive session was proper.

What Carotti never addressed were the requirements of the FOIA law, which made executive session illegal in this case, according to Bender’s statement. Shouldn’t the county attorney and parliamentarian have addressed those requirements before ruling executive session legal?

As Bender pointed out, this is at least the third time this year Horry County has not adhered to FOIA requirements. Unfortunately, the FOIA law has no teeth. There are no consequences for the county if it chooses to ignore the law, which it does when necessary.

While Vaught stated some reasons for executive session that sounded shaky at the time, he accomplished his goal in keeping the interviews of candidates for the administrator position out of the public eye.

I submit Vaught did not want the public to be able to compare the candidates’ respective presentations, especially make comparisons with his chosen candidate Steve Gosnell. In that Vaught was successful even if it took an illegal executive session, which Carotti ruled appropriate, to accomplish it.

The Hospitality Fee issue is one that could affect the county significantly. Last Friday, Judge Seals ordered a temporary restraining order, which prohibits the county from collecting hospitality fees within the at least the city limits of Myrtle Beach and quite probably in any of the incorporated municipalities.

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