Post Tagged with: "Arrigo Carotti"

The Eldridge and Carotti Version of Extortion – ‘He Said, He Said, She Said, He Said’

January 7, 2019 3:53 AM
The Eldridge and Carotti Version of Extortion – ‘He Said, He Said, She Said, He Said’

Horry County Administrator Chris Eldridge and Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti were left off the hook last Friday when Horry County Council quickly voted to adjourn a meeting rather than drill down on why the two embarrassed the county by calling for a SLED investigation of a rather ridiculous version of events allegedly involving council Chairman Johnny Gardner.

Using alleged here is really a stretch as fantasy much closer describes a five-page email Carotti authored and Eldridge said, in a letter delivered to council members after the meeting, “accurately summarized” what transpired.

If Eldridge and Carotti are to be believed, we have to accept that Gardner attempted to have the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) funnel “thousands of dollars” (Eldridge words) to Donald Smith (Gardner’s campaign consultant), somehow using the Beach Ball Classic “for political cover” (Carotti words). The EDC board is filled with many of the most prominent and politically connected business people, educators and government officials in the county.

By Carotti’s admission in his email, he began writing the email on the 14th relating events that began on (or before) December 5th. Carotti completed his email on December 19th sending it to Eldridge and the 12 members of county council at that time. The entire email was leaked and published in a Columbia media outlet within 12 hours of its completion.

There are supposedly only 14 people who had initial access to this email. At least one of those was the source of its initial leak. Find the leaker among Eldridge, Carotti and the 12 members of council in December and you will discover not only the reason for the leak, but also the reason the email was written in the first place. The motivation will be political not legal, moral or ethical.

The email contains information Carotti allegedly heard from Davis about conversations she allegedly had with Barefoot. In other words, ‘he said, she said, he said.’ In Eldridge’s case, most of his knowledge was gained from Carotti’s retelling of those conversations, or another way, ’he said, he said, she said, he said.’

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Searching for A False Narrative

January 3, 2019 8:47 AM
Searching for A False Narrative

False narratives appear to have become the standard emanating from some county government officials pursuing personal agendas over the past few years.

The latest is the five-page narrative crafted by county attorney Arrigo Carotti, with some input from county administrator Chris Eldridge, which attempted to place new council chairman Johnny Gardner involved in a nefarious plot that never happened.

Local editorial cartoonist Ed Wilson captured the essence of what went on between Eldridge and Carotti perfectly in the editorial cartoon accompanying this article. Once again, Wilson has demonstrated that a picture is worth 1,000 words.

The two examined snippets of conversations either or both had been party to with Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation CEO Sandy Davis to attempt to find incriminating evidence against Gardner. As Wilson depicts, the search was quite literally to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Eldridge used this bit of creative writing on the part of Carotti as an excuse to call in SLED to investigate. The narrative was also conveniently leaked to a Columbia media outlet to sensationalize the narrative.

This is not the first time a false narrative has been used as a county tactic to attempt to create a certain image in media.

One only has to read the county’s response and counterclaims, as amended, in the Angie Jones lawsuit against Eldridge and the county to view another example.

As I quoted from the amended response and counterclaims in the Jones lawsuit, the county said, “If Jones has any alleged “issues” with regard to staffing and competently and efficiently performing her duties as the Horry County Treasurer, such issues are solely as a result of her mismanagement of her offices and her own decisions, including her decisions to drive out and remove and replace competent long-term employees with friends and political supporters lacking in relevant experience.”

The bit about doing favors for friends and political supporters is strikingly similar to allegations against Gardner.

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Gardner Victory Top Story in 2018

December 31, 2018 7:07 AM
Gardner Victory Top Story in 2018

Johnny Gardner’s primary victory over incumbent Mark Lazarus to become the Chairman of Horry County Council beginning tomorrow is the top story for 2018.

As the incumbent, Lazarus was endorsed by a number of elected officials in the county including U. S. Rep. Tom Rice, most of the county legislative delegation members, his 11 co-members of county council and most of the county’s mayors. He was also supported by most of the Myrtle Beach Chamber crowd and those others in the county who consider themselves power brokers.

Gardner was supported by a vast majority of the employees of Horry County Government including endorsements by the public safety fraternal organizations Horry County Professional Firefighter Local 4345 of the International Association of Firefighters and Coastal Carolina Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 12. He was also supported by a majority of those voters often overlooked by Horry County politicos and power brokers – the average citizens.

The 2018 election cycle was a change cycle in Horry County. Three out of four incumbents who received serious challenges in either the primaries or general election lost and the fourth squeaked by with just over a 30 vote victory margin.

Supporting the concept that Gardner’s victory was the most watched of those four are events that have happened since the June 12th primary.

Horry County voters supported an advisory referendum on changing the state impact fee law to require new development to pay for more of its costs by a nearly three out of four margin (73% to 27%).

Developers rushed to get a number of rezonings approved in the last six months of the year, but not without some significant defeats along the way.

County staff “discovered” that more of the approximately $41 million of hospitality tax revenue could be used for areas such as public safety, infrastructure and recreation than they had previously acknowledged.

Lazarus led a major push to have council pass a resolution approving a contract with the S. C. Department of Transportation for rights of way acquisition, engineering and construction of I-73 in Horry County. Part of that resolution designates $25 million per year of hospitality tax revenue to go into a special road fund for the I-73 project but the resolution is not a hard appropriation of tax dollars.

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What is the Purpose of the Leaked Carotti Email?

December 23, 2018 6:50 AM
What is the Purpose of the Leaked Carotti Email?

A leaked five page email headed “Attorney Client Privileged” provided the big story in Horry County and state media in the last few days, but questions about the accuracy of the email contents raise questions about why it was produced.

The email from county attorney Arrigo Carotti to incumbent council members and county administrator Chris Eldridge supposedly was a confidential missive to inform council members about possible improper “threats” that allegedly occurred during a meeting between recently sworn in council chairman Johnny Gardner and Luke Barefoot with EDC President/CEO Sandy Davis and her number two Sherri Steele.

But the email goes further by speaking of various conversations, either by phone or in person, which occurred over a two week period. The only record of these conversations is Carotti’s memory. He states in his five page tale the conversations began on December 5th. But Carotti only began writing his email from memory of those conversations (to the best of his recollection) on December 14th.

It is this email that attempts to make a recording of the Gardner/Davis meeting sound potentially sinister.

This is the same email of which Davis told media after it was leaked, “A lot of it is fabricated.”

With the email playing such a large part in the story, I asked a prominent (and in my opinion brilliant) local attorney to provide me with his analysis of the five page missive.

The following quotes are from that analysis:

 “A question that jumps out at me is – he (Carotti) starts keeping a Watergate-styled narrative on his computer on Dec 14, as a result of events that started December 5, because “memory fades over time.” We’re talking about nine days!  What kind of nonsense is that?”

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Davis Calls Carotti Email Fabricated

December 21, 2018 9:31 AM
Davis Calls Carotti Email Fabricated

Sandy Davis, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation and primary source for information contained in an email county attorney Arrigo Carotti sent to council members Wednesday night, an email I reported on yesterday, was quoted in a story on the MyHorryNews.com website yesterday as saying about the email, “A lot of it was fabricated.”

Davis also told reporter Charles Perry that the narrative about extortion is false and that a tape recording of a meeting she had with Johnny Gardner reflects that fact.

Davis’ “on the record” comments to Perry totally undercut what Carotti, apparently in association with county administrator Chris Eldridge, was trying to portray in his email.

It now appears that Carotti’s missive was not created so much to inform council members of any facts, but rather to be leaked to a sympathetic media outlet in Columbia for a sensationalized story that would get the words “Johnny Gardner”and “extortion” into public view on the same day Gardner was being sworn in as the new Horry County Council Chairman..

Carotti’s email was sent to council members late Wednesday afternoon. The story appeared Thursday morning including the complete email.

How did this happen if the intent was not to immediately leak the email, headed by the words “Attorney Client Privilege” to give it the appearance of legitimacy?

The audio recording of the Gardner meeting also brings interesting questions to this issue. Eldridge was aware of the recording in early December. An email from EDC board chairman Neyle Wilson to Eldridge dated December 7, 2018 suggested to Eldridge that he “listen to the tape recording first and then decide whether you need to go any further.”

A follow up email from Wilson to Eldridge on December 12, 2018 stated, “Good morning Chris. I have not heard back from you on the below offer to listen to the recording. Please let me know if you accept this offer and if so, give me some dates and times that you can come to the EDC office.”

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Response to Carotti Email to Council Members

December 20, 2018 11:09 AM
Response to Carotti Email to Council Members

 I received many calls this morning about an article that appeared on the FitsNews.com website today. The article included a reproduction of a five-page email county attorney Arrigo Carotti sent to the 12 current members of county council and county administrator Chris Eldridge last night.

It did not take long for the email to be leaked to FitsNews last night, almost as if it was planned.

In response to the media article and the information Council Members received from Carotti, I sent an email containing the following message to council members, Carotti, Eldridge and Donald Smith:

Council Members,

I was surprised to be told this morning that an article today in FitsNews included reproduction of a five page email from Arrigo Carotti to Chris Eldridge and the current 12 members of county council in which my name was included in events that never happened.

Carotti said in his concluding sentence that the email was written to the best of his recollection.

Let’s expand on that, it included statements that could be interpreted as pointing to possible criminal acts. These statements were made, to the best of Carotti’s recollection, about a conversation he had with Sandy Davis about a conversation she supposedly had with Luke Barefoot, presumably to the best of her recollection.

This is hearsay at its worst!

Now let’s get to the crux of the matter.

In his email, Carotti says Davis told him that Barefoot told her, “that Paul Gable was getting ready to print an article against the EDC pointing out her lack of education specifically, and that she could head that off, and any similar blogs in the future,  by retaining Donald Smith to do the EDC’s public relations.”

The problem with that statement is I never talked to Luke Barefoot, or anyone else, about doing an article about Sandy Davis’ education. I never had in my mind at any time doing such an article. I have certainly written many articles criticizing the EDC and Partners before it about the organization’s many missteps in including businesses such as AvCraft and Project Blue, to name two, in its economic development efforts.

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Fourth Circuit to Hear Oral Arguments in Skydive Myrtle Beach Appeal

February 18, 2018 6:00 AM
Fourth Circuit to Hear Oral Arguments in Skydive Myrtle Beach Appeal

A complaint brought by Skydive Myrtle Beach against Horry County Department of Airports has been tentatively scheduled for oral arguments before the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA May 8-10, 2018.

See extract of official electronic notification here:

A quick recap of the case:

In early 2014, shortly after Skydive Myrtle Beach (SDMB) reported to the FAA of discriminatory actions against it by the Horry County Department of Airports (HCDA), HCDA and other Horry County officials apparently decided they wanted to eliminate SDMB from operating in Horry County.

Tandem skydiving is a recognized and approved use of publicly supported airport facilities by the Federal Aviation Administration. It is illegal for an airport that accepts publicly funded grants, as HCDA does annually, to discriminate against one type of approved aviation activity, say helicopter operations, over another – tandem skydiving.

In 2014, HCDA began circulating stories about alleged safety violations committed by SDMB while it was operating out of Grand Strand Airport.

In October 2015, Horry County government ultimately evicted SDMB from Grand Strand Airport using a 73 page FAA Director’s Determination as justification. It is the findings in the FAA Director’s Determination that is on appeal before the Fourth Circuit.

Much of the Director’s Determination report was based on 112 safety violations allegedly committed by SDMB and quite unofficially and sloppily documented by HCDA and its tower operator at Grand Strand Airport, Robinson Aviation.

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 actions taken by HCDA on the alleged 112 violations.

Likewise, Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti wrote in an email response to FOIA requests seeking information on the 112 alleged violations that, “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.”

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Another Twist in the Skydive Myrtle Beach Controversy

August 19, 2017 12:30 PM
Another Twist in the Skydive Myrtle Beach Controversy

Another interesting twist has appeared related to the Skydive Myrtle Beach controversy with Horry County over the county’s closing of the Skydive Myrtle Beach business.

Nearly two years ago, the county used a Director’s Determination by the Federal Aviation Administration to close the landing zone for skydivers at Grand Strand Airport and evict Skydive Myrtle Beach from a hangar at that airport.

The Director’s Determination was based on 112 alleged safety violations committed by Skydive Myrtle Beach, which were documented and reported by Horry County Department of Airports personnel and/or Robinson Aviation personnel who are contracted by the county to staff the control tower at Grand Strand Airport.

In a recent post about the ongoing controversy, we quoted a letter by Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti that backed away from calling the documents proof of safety violations by SDMB.

Carotti’s letter, which was included with a response to a FOIA request for documents related to SDMB safety violations, stated, in part, the documents provided “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.”

Several days after the story was posted, the following was contained in an email to at least one county council member:

“On Aug 15, 2017, at 11:24 AM, Carotti, Arrigo wrote:

The misrepresentation of facts and the law has been ongoing on the part of Mr. Holly, misguided bloggers, and Holly surrogates for several years now, involving universally unsuccessful litigation by Holly, and pending litigation against the FAA, the State of South Carolina, Horry County, officials and employees. There have been no new admissions, the FAA’s and County’s sound positions in the matter remaining the same. 

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Horry County Reverses Story on Skydive Myrtle Beach Alleged Violations

August 12, 2017 4:56 AM
Horry County Reverses Story on Skydive Myrtle Beach Alleged Violations

Nearly two years after evicting Skydive Myrtle Beach from Grand Strand Airport for, allegedly, committing numerous safety violations, Horry County now won’t claim the skydiving business committed any violations.

In a cover letter providing 126 documents responding to a Freedom of Information Act request for all public documents associated with Skydive Myrtle Beach safety violations, Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti 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.” (See full letter below)

What is astounding about that statement is that two years ago the exact same documents were provided to both the Federal Aviation Administration and S.C. Fifteenth Circuit Court as proof of safety violations by Skydive Myrtle Beach.

In 2014, Skydive Myrtle Beach lodged a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration against Horry County Department of Airports alleging discriminatory actions against Skydive Myrtle Beach by HCDA.

In response, Horry County Department of Airports reported to the Federal Aviation Administration that Skydive Myrtle Beach was the subject of 112 alleged safety violations (contained in the 126 pages of documents) while conducting business at Grand Strand Airport.

On October 7, 2015, the FAA issued a Director’s Determination Report, authored by Randall Fiertz, the FAA Director of Airport Compliance and Management Analysis, in response to Holly’s original complaint, supposedly basing the report on those safety violations.

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Questions Surrounding the HCSWA Board Member Elections

May 7, 2017 5:46 PM
Questions Surrounding the HCSWA Board Member Elections

Nothing is ever simple and straightforward when it involves the Horry County Solid Waste Authority (HCSWA) Board of Directors.

Last Tuesday, Horry County Council voted to appoint two members to the HCSWA board from among three nominated candidates. Two of the candidates, current board chairman Pam Creech and vice chairman Norfleet Jones, were incumbents. Candidate Sam Johnson was the outsider in the voting.

Creech was reelected by a majority of council members. However, Johnson and Jones tied in two successive votes with six each. After the first vote, Creech was named to remain on the board by council chairman Mark Lazarus who proceeded to hold a second ballot with just Jones and Johnson competing for one opening, against the advice of Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti.

Jones and Johnson tied with six votes each on both ballots.

Lazarus announced the second opening on the HCSWA board would be filled by council vote during council’s regular May 16, 2017 meeting. However, Lazarus stated nominations for the second position would remain open adding an additional question mark to the process.

The voting, however, only showed minor problems compared to what transpired before the vote.

On April 28, 2017, Esther Murphy, HCSWA’s Director of Recycling and Corporate Affairs sent an email to Horry County Council Clerk Pat Hartley with copies to all 12 members of county council as well as HCSWA Executive Director Danny Knight, Creech and Jones.

The email began, “Board member Norfleet Jones asked that we contact you regarding his term on the Solid Waste Authority Board, which ends on June 30, 2017. Mr. Jones indicated he would be completing his first term and would like to be reappointed to the Board for a second term…”

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