Post Tagged with: "Gary Loftus"

Eldridge and His Band of Followers

March 13, 2019 3:52 AM
Eldridge and His Band of Followers

It has been one week since six members of Horry County Council blindly followed the lead of administrator Chris Eldridge with the story pitched by Eldridge about how and why he called for a SLED investigation with false allegations against Chairman Johnny Gardner.

Last week’s farce seemed more like River City than Horry County with Eldridge playing the part of Harold Hill.

But that is exactly what happens when council members are unwilling to ask questions of the administrator about his story or give more than a cursory glance at the SLED report and the tape recording at its center.

Prior to a November 30, 2018 lunch meeting between Gardner, Luke Barefoot and Sandy Davis and Sherri Steele of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Eldridge already had his narrative established of what would be told to SLED 20 days later.

This is obvious from the sworn statements given to SLED investigators by Eldridge and Davis. Almost immediately after the lunch meeting ended, Eldridge peppered Davis with specific questions about Donald Smith, supposed stories that were supposed to be written by me, payments to the Beach Ball Classic and a statement by Eldridge about funneling money to Smith.

Eldridge told SLED Davis was “upset” after the meeting. Davis told SLED the meeting went well and EDC board chairman Neyle Wilson said Davis said the same to him and his interpretation of the meeting was quite the opposite of that of Eldridge.

Nineteen days after the meeting, Eldridge, attorney Arrigo Carotti, council members Mark Lazarus and Gary Loftus, Wilson, Davis, Steele and Fred Richardson of the EDC listened to the portion of the recording of the meeting that was pertinent to Eldridge’s false allegations.

According to Davis and Wilson, Eldridge was the only member of the group that “thought he heard something” on the tape to support his allegations. The others said there was nothing there.

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Eldridge’s Tangled Web of Contradictions

March 10, 2019 4:31 AM
Eldridge’s Tangled Web of Contradictions

Horry County Administrator Chris Eldridge spun a tangled web of contradictions with his responses to council at last week’s special council meeting during which Eldridge told his version of how SLED was called to investigate Chairman Johnny Gardner.

Eldridge was grilled by council members Al Allen, Johnny Vaught, Danny Hardee, Orton Bellamy and Paul Prince on why all members of council were neither consulted prior to calling for a SLED investigation nor told about a request to SLED after it was made.

Most of council had to read about the matter being referred to SLED and SLED investigating the allegations in articles published by Columbia media outlet Fitsnews. And it was those articles that caused Eldridge the most difficulty last week.

As demonstrated by his December 12, 2018 email to Neyle Wilson and Sandy Davis of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation, county attorney Arrigo Carotti, county chairman Mark Lazarus and council member Gary Loftus, Eldridge already had his story firmly in mind about what happened during a lunch meeting between Gardner, Luke Barefoot, Davis and her co-worker Sherri Steele.

Eldridge accused EDC of not allowing him access to a tape recording of the meeting after Wilson had already offered twice to allow Eldridge to listen to the recording in an email of December 7, 2018 with a follow up email December 12th. It was Wilson’s December 12th email that elicited Eldridge’s confusing accusations to Wilson.

One other interesting point, while Eldridge used the business emails of Wilson, Davis and Carotti, he used the personal emails of Lazarus and Loftus. Was he trying to hide this from other council members?

After ultimately listening to the recording on December 19, 2019, Eldridge sent a five-page memo, authored by Carotti, by email to all council members after 6 p.m. at night. The Carotti memo was leaked to Fitsnews virtually immediately and appeared less than 12 hours later on the media outlet’s website.

Eldridge stated several times during the special council meeting that no council members other than Lazarus and Loftus knew about his allegations until they received Carotti’s memo.

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Council Splits Vote Eldridge Survives for Now

March 6, 2019 6:36 PM
Council Splits Vote Eldridge Survives for Now

Horry County Council voted 6-6 on the question of whether to fire administrator Chris Eldridge during its special meeting on the question Tuesday afternoon.

Eldridge survived, but barely and it is obvious he does not have the support of a majority of council going forward. Even the six who voted no on the question of firing Eldridge did not appear to be acting out of a conviction that he needed to stay.

The opposition was led by council member Dennis DiSabato who has said he will never support anything by that SOB Gardner. DiSabato spent most of his time attacking Gardner including accusing him of being involved in a ‘pay to play scheme’ even though SLED and the Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor have already said nothing violating the law happened.

Council members Bill Howard, Cam Crawford and Tyler Servant said nothing in support of Eldridge. That’s four out of six who were basically mute on Eldridge while council members Harold Worley and Gary Loftus gave lukewarm support to Eldridge.

What was apparent from comments and questions from council during the two hour meeting was that six members of council firmly believe Eldridge acted unprofessionally and inappropriately in calling for a SLED investigation on new Chairman Johnny Gardner.

The SLED findings and conclusion of Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson were that nothing inappropriate happened when Gardner and his business partner Luke Barefoot met with EDC executives Sandy Davis and Sherri Steele.

Davis and Steele both told SLED the very same thing when they were interviewed during the investigation process.

Council member Danny Hardee said it best when he told Eldridge he (Eldridge) was the only one who thought ‘he heard something’ in the recording of the conversation.

As the record shows, Eldridge already had his mind made up as to his own set of facts when he sent an email to EDC board chairman Neyle Wilson on December 12, 2018 even though Eldridge did not listen to the recording until December 19, 2019.

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Worley Attempting to Lead Insurrection Against Chairman Gardner -UPDATED

January 9, 2019 8:16 PM
Worley Attempting to Lead Insurrection Against Chairman Gardner -UPDATED

Based on his actions over the past six days, it appears Horry County Council member Harold Worley is attempting to lead an insurrection against new council chairman Johnny Gardner.

It began last Friday when Worley appeared determined to avoid having council discuss recent actions by County Administrator Chris Eldridge designed to smear Gardner before he had even assumed office.

This included an interpretation by County Attorney Arrigo Carotti of state law regarding requirements for removing the administrator that three attorneys I have consulted say was a complete misinterpretation of the law.

According to an email chain provided to GSD, Worley has succeeded in enlisting four additional council members, Tyler Servant, Cam Crawford, Bill Howard and Gary Loftus into what I will call the Gang of Five in a new attempt aimed at embarrassing and marginalizing the new chairman.

Those same four supported Worley’s antics last Friday to suppress discussion of the administrator’s actions in embarrassing the county.

This new attempt regards a change in seating arrangement on the council dais that Gardner has called for. The arrangement is numerical which Gardner believes will make it easier for meeting attendees and home viewers to identify their particular district member.

On the surface, this looks like a completely ridiculous division to have.

With the real problems in the county, public safety shortages, infrastructure, storm water and so on, the most pressing issue to five council members is where they sit on the dais?

But is it really about where members sit?

I have been told by business people in the county since last Friday that the Dunes Club Crowd is not happy with Gardner in the chairman’s seat. Worley has long positioned himself as a champion of the people against that crowd, but I wonder.

What is most interesting here is the Gang of Five all represent council districts totally or substantially east of the waterway and all five live east of the waterway.

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Robin Gause Announces Run for Council District 4

April 7, 2016 5:09 AM
Robin Gause Announces Run for Council District 4

Robin Gause, 51, a longtime resident of Burgess, has announced her candidacy for the Horry County Council District 4 seat.

Gause, the busy mother of a son and five daughters, with 10 grandchildren, comes from a medical background, having taught childbirth education, pre-natal and breastfeeding classes to hundreds of women. She was, for seven years, a “guardian ad litem,” a special court-appointed guardian for children and mentally impaired people during legal activities that affect their lives.

This is her first run for political office. She is currently precinct president of Marlowe 3, and has been active in Democratic Party matters for many years. She was born and raised in Hampton, South Carolina, west of Charleston. Her husband Sam is retired.

The District 4 seat is currently held by Republican Gary Loftus. The District includes southern Myrtle Beach and the Market Common, and the southwestern corner of Horry County, including the area around Burgess on the western side of Route 707, plus smaller portions of Socastee north of the Route 17 Bypass.

Gause said she has the knowledge and skills to serve the community and to bring structure, innovation and unity to all of Horry County.

“Roads, economic development, education and jobs” are the major issues of the council campaign, she said.

Route 707 is being widened, but county council needs to address other issues with the road, according to Gause. “There are sidewalks going in, but we need more. There are a lot of accidents, and we need more traffic lights.”

Gause feels strongly that the county must do everything it can to increase education of county children and adults at every level, “so everyone can compete on a level playing field.” To do so, she says, the county council must work closely with the school district.

Since Horry County is a major tourist destination, much of local employment is seasonal. That being the case, the county and the school system need to provide programs for increased training and education.

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Southerners Don’t Care How You Did It Up North

March 30, 2016 12:01 PM
Southerners Don’t Care How You Did It Up North

Certain events in the local political arena over the last year have made me understand much more completely why Southerners say, ‘We don’t care how you do it up north.’

Tip O’Neill told us all politics are local. What he didn’t tell us is it takes a transplant a long time to truly understand all the intricacies of ‘local.’

As a transplant from the north myself 32 years ago, I know there is a certain amount of resentment someone from the north can expect to experience after relocating permanently to the south.

I always attributed it to that ‘Civil War thing.’ After all, if your ancestors were on the receiving end of one of the biggest ass kickings in military history from my ancestors, you have a right to be a bit resentful.

There is also a significant difference in the general way the two regions view the political spectrum of ideologies, which I felt was a major reason Southerners didn’t want Northerners messing about too much in their politics.

Can’t blame anyone for that attitude.

Some transplants from the north have operated effectively in the local political arena. Loftus comes immediately to mind in local politics and Mark Kelly on the state level in earlier times.

However, it’s certainly a fact that the most effective politicians during my three plus decades of direct observation in Horry County have been those home grown natives with deep roots in the local area.

Most transplants who have tried their luck at running for local political office have been unsuccessful, except when one transplant was running against another transplant, which has happened, if rarely.

Much of that limited success can be attributed to ‘We don’t care how you do it up north.’

Recently, however, several transplants from the north have truly demonstrated how not to do it in local politics.

Yesterday, one local transplant, Dick Withington, was arrested for trying to get another transplant, incumbent Horry County Council District 4 member Gary Loftus, to pay Withington not to oppose Loftus in the upcoming election for Loftus’ seat.

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Politician Dick Withington Arrested

March 29, 2016 7:00 PM
Politician Dick Withington Arrested

By Paul Gable

Horry County politician and retired businessman Dick Withington was arrested today by the Horry County Police Department.

Withington is currently being held at the J. Reuben Long Detention Facility.

According to multiple sources, Withington was arrested after soliciting a bribe from Horry County Council member Gary Loftus.

According to those sources, after announcing he would be a candidate challenging incumbent Loftus in the upcoming June Republican Primary, Withington sent an email to Loftus offering to drop out of the race if Loftus would pay him an, as yet, undisclosed amount of money.

According to sources, Loftus reported the incident to Horry County police. A meeting was set up at which Loftus would offer to pay Withington a down payment with bills marked by HCPD. After the exchange took place, Withington was arrested with the marked bills in his possession.

As has become his pattern of running for more than one office in the same election cycle, Withington also was a candidate for the SC Senate District 34 seat. Several unconfirmed reports state Withington also sent an email to SC Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, a candidate for Senate District 34, with the same offer.

This year has been uniquely unusual in politics with the Republican Party establishment going out of its way to undermine frontrunning GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, so I guess anything is possible.

But, Withington’s actions, especially considering his abysmal polling record to date in seeking numerous political offices in the area, makes one shake one’s head.

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The New Horry County Transportation Committee

August 31, 2015 5:00 AM
The New Horry County Transportation Committee

The Horry County Transportation Committee held its inaugural meeting Thursday.

Appointed by Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus, after the Airport Advisory Board was discontinued several months ago, the committee members are Gary Loftus, Chairman and Johnny Vaught, Bill Howard and Lazarus.

The committee will provide initial oversight of issues for the full council on airports, Coast RTA and the railroad.

With the railroad sale now completed, R.J. Corman, the new owners, are clearing the track in preparation of fixing the line and bridges so that the portion in North Carolina to the SCDOT bridge across the waterway at Myrtle Beach can be opened for traffic.

Lazarus said Corman wants to open the track as quickly as possible for service to those former users and possibly new economic development opportunities associated with rail freight.

In time, it is possible that special passenger excursions, dinner trains, and the like will be run from Myrtle Beach to Conway, but that is for the future.

The largest undertaking over the next several months will be committee involvement with a comprehensive airport master plan for the county’s four general aviation airports – Myrtle Beach International, Grand Strand in North Myrtle Beach, Conway and Loris.

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HCSWA Recycling Contract Hits Bumps

August 20, 2015 5:00 AM
HCSWA Recycling Contract Hits Bumps

Questions arose about the recycling contract the HCSWA has signed with Charleston County during the regular meeting of Horry County Council Tuesday.

Council was considering first reading of a budget amendment ordinance to provide a means to amend the budget for recycling contracts entered into by the HCSWA. A budget amendment ordinance requires a super majority of nine “Yes” votes to pass, according to council rules.

The first reading passed with the minimum of nine “Yes” votes, but not before being subjected to some tough questioning especially by council member Al Allen.

Allen’s major concerns were in two areas – why council had not been provided with a copy of the HCSWA/Charleston County contract prior to first reading of the ordinance and why the HCSWA was flip-flopping on the issue of bringing waste into the county.

“I don’t want to have to vote for a contract in order to find out what’s in it,” Allen said. “I want to be able to read and study the contract before I vote on it.”

Council members received a copy of the HCSWA/Charleston County contract during the first reading discussion from county attorney Arrigo Carotti.

Allen referred back to the county’s flow control ordinance and discussed how, in his opinion, the HCSWA has switched positions on taking garbage in from out of county sources.

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No Extortion on International Drive

August 18, 2015 9:09 PM
No Extortion on International Drive

Horry County Council gave a resounding NO to the possibility of giving any money to The Nature Conservancy for extra mitigation on International Drive.

The new request came up during a meeting between Horry County officials and representatives from the Coastal Conservation League and the SC Wildlife Federation.

Essentially what was asked for was the county to pay The Nature Conservancy approximately $1.6 million so that agency could purchase land to be used ostensibly for wildlife preservation.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus ended the meeting after the new demand was made.

Lazarus reported on the International Drive project during the regular council meeting Tuesday night. He said he wasn’t going to give money from the taxpayers of Horry County to a private nonprofit organization so it could buy land.

It is probably not something that could legally be done either. International Drive is one of the projects paid for by the one cent local option sales tax (Ride II).

Ride II was approved by referendum of county voters in 2006. At that time, each project with the anticipated expenses associated with it was listed in the referendum. The county has already paid for the mitigation credits required by the US Army Corps of Engineers and SCDHEC for the project.

To expend extra dollars just to please conservation groups for land that is neither associated with the project nor required for mitigation certainly seems to be in conflict with state law on capital projects sales tax.

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