Post Tagged with: "Freedom of Information Act"

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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Punishing Citizens for FOIA Requests

March 18, 2015 6:00 AM
Punishing Citizens for FOIA Requests

The S.C. House has possibly outdone even itself with a bill that would punish citizens for making FOIA requests.

H.3191 is this beauty and it has already passed from the House to the Senate in its progress to becoming law.

Provisions in the law would allow public agencies to take legal action against citizens who make “overly broad” or “unduly burdensome” requests for public records.

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Want Ethics Reform – Fire Ethics Commission Head

November 8, 2014 5:00 AM
Want Ethics Reform – Fire Ethics Commission Head

A good first step toward ethics reform in South Carolina would be to fire S.C. Ethics Commission Executive Director Herb Hayden.

Last month, Richland County Circuit Judge Alison Lee approved a consent order ruling Hayden propagated a “falsehood” to a state ethics watchdog agency and in responding with a falsehood violated the Freedom of Information Act.

As part of the settlement, Hayden and the ethics commission maintained the falsehood was inadvertent and unintentional.

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Freedom of Information Act Retreat in South Carolina

June 23, 2014 7:00 AM
Freedom of Information Act Retreat in South Carolina

The Freedom of Information Act in South Carolina took a huge step backward last week with a ruling issued by the S.C. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court basically ruled out any requirement for public bodies to tell citizens what they are doing, or intend to do, during their meetings.

The rather surprising Supreme Court ruling was based on interpretation by the justices of S.C. Code of Laws 30-4-80, otherwise known as the Freedom of Information Act.

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New Developments for Coast RTA Special Committee

March 26, 2014 5:00 PM
New Developments for Coast RTA Special Committee

Several developments over the last 48 hours have ‘stirred the pot’ regarding deliberations of the Special Committee on Coast RTA formed recently by Horry County Council chairman Mark Lazarus.

The committee, chaired by council member Marion Foxworth, held its first meeting March 17, 2014 with a second meeting scheduled for April 7, 2014.

According to stipulations of fact adopted by committee members at the first meeting, the committee has no oversight of Coast RTA or its management and is limiting its scope to attempting to make a determination of what went wrong with two projects cancelled by SCDOT – a bus sign and shelter project that began in 2007 and a study for an intermodal transportation center begun in 2013.

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Transparency and Reform Dead on Vine

March 30, 2013 9:00 AM
Transparency and Reform Dead on Vine

Ethics reform and government transparency sounded great on the campaign trails last fall, but the reality in Columbia is another year will pass without any meaningful changes taking place in state government.

The S.C. General Assembly is up to its old tricks of exempting itself from the laws that govern all other elected officials in the state.

Two bills that may have added real oversight over state legislators appear to be dead on the vine. One would have gotten rid of the House and Senate ethics committees and put legislators under the same ethics commission that oversees all other public officials in the state.

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Why All the Secrecy

July 28, 2012 11:20 PM
Why All the Secrecy

Several days ago, we ran a story about how South Carolina ranks dead last among the 50 states for freedom of information access to government information. Thursday night, we learned that Horry County is attempting to rank at the bottom of the state’s 46 counties for public disclosure of information about its actions.

Horry County Council voted 7-2 Thursday night to pass first reading of an ordinance that would allow the issuance of $8 million of general obligation debt while refusing to publicly state what the money will be used for. Council members Harold Worley and Marion Foxworth voted no on the ordinance while members Brent Schulz, Paul Price and Paul Prince were not present at the meeting.

This vote took place during the second specially called council meeting in three days, both dedicated to executive sessions on a Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation initiative called “Project Blue.”

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