Post Tagged with: "Heather Ammons Crawford"

Clemmons Explanation of Payments to Crawford Raises More Questions

May 3, 2020 3:29 AM
Clemmons Explanation of Payments to Crawford Raises More Questions

It took a week before Alan Clemmons issued a public explanation of his nearly $150,000 total payments to Heather Ammons Crawford from his campaign account in the years 2008-2012 inclusive.

The Clemmons statement came in the form of a letter to the editor of FitsNews.com, a Columbia online political outlet.

The second paragraph in the letter is the key to Clemmons’ explanation of his hiring Crawford as a contract employee. It is quoted below in full:

“Prior to Heather’s election and having been seated in the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2013, Heather was a full-time contract employee in my local district office.  She served in that role from 2008 through 2012. When hired, her salary was $2,000 per month and was later increased to $2,500 per month. Heather consulted and advised me regarding campaign and election matters, managed my district office, handled officeholder account bookkeeping and filed my public reports. The bulk of her full-time focus was, however, assisting me in serving the needs of my constituents. Heather kept regular hours in the district office, housed at no cost to the taxpayer or my supporters on the premises of my law firm.”

Clemmons went on to say he takes constituent service very seriously, hence the position for Crawford.

According to Clemmons’ campaign disclosure filings, he hired Crawford in April 2008 for the sum of $2,000 per month plus expenses. That amount was increased to $2,500 per month plus expenses beginning May 2009 and running at that rate through December 2012. All payments to Crawford were made from Clemmons’ campaign account.

As a state representative, Clemmons spends approximately three days per week, five months per year in Columbia for legislative sessions. He is paid $10,400 per year salary, $12,000 per year ($1,000 per month) for In District Expenses, subsistence for hotel and meals while attending legislative sessions, mileage to and from Columbia and some additional expense reimbursements as appropriate.

As a state representative from Horry County, he has access to the services of the two employees of the county legislative delegation office in Conway (paid for from county council general fund). These aides are employed to take phone calls, handle correspondence, and provide additional support, as needed, for the members of the Horry County Legislative Delegation.

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Clemmons, Crawford, Crawford, Parker You Got Some ‘Splaining to do

April 28, 2020 6:44 AM
Clemmons, Crawford, Crawford, Parker You Got Some ‘Splaining to do

Campaign funds and the lax laws controlling them allow politicians the ability to do almost anything they want with donations they receive.

But, the donors and the voters have a right to know exactly what is being done with campaign funds just as they do with public money. How, why and to whom is it paid? What goal toward being elected or reelected is achieved by its expenditure?

This is why nearly $150,000 over a four year span from Rep. Alan Clemmons’ campaign fund to now Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford (she was only a SC House member for the final $2,250 of that amount) listed as contract and/or campaign services leaves many questions.

Clemmons had no opponent in either a primary or general election in 2008, 2010 and 2012 election cycles. Yet, Crawford was paid an average of $37,500 per year for four years from Clemmons’ campaign account.

The voters deserve to know exactly what work did Clemmons pay Heather Crawford for? Was it all associated with political functions?

Heather Ammons Crawford, her husband and current Horry County District 6 council member Cam Crawford and SC Rep. Russell Fry have a political consulting business called Crescent Communications.

By way of comparison to the Clemmons payments to Heather Crawford, three campaigns run by the firm for former Horry County Council chairman Mark Lazarus provide stark contrasts.

Crescent Communications provided consulting services for three Lazarus campaigns, a special election in 2013 and regular election in 2014 and 2018. In those three campaigns, Lazarus spent a total of approximately $300,000 from his campaign account, all for election purposes. Approximately $41,000 was the total sum paid to Crescent Communications for those three campaign cycles.

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Alan Clemmons Campaign Account, Big Expenses No Opponents

April 24, 2020 5:11 AM
Alan Clemmons Campaign Account, Big Expenses No Opponents

Rep. Alan Clemmons campaign website has a link for visitors to make contributions to his campaign.

This is something most candidates do in an effort to help fund the costs of campaigning.

In the case of Clemmons campaign chest, one must ask what is this money used for?

A review of Clemmons’ campaign fund quarterly filings from the years 2008 – 2018 inclusive show that Clemmons raised a total of $460,409.23 in campaign donations. He had $231,224.62 on hand in his campaign account at the beginning of 2008, according to the records.

Over the same span, 2008 – 2018, Clemmons spent a total of $480,912.51 from his campaign funds. The 2008 – 2018 time frame includes six election cycles, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018, in which Clemmons was a candidate for he S. C. House. He was first elected in 2002, but records for his first three campaigns are not available online.

Raising and spending campaign contributions for election is what all candidates do.

However, in the six election cycles covered by these records, CLEMMONS HAD NO OPPOSITION!

He had no opponent in the primaries and no opponent in the general elections.

It must be asked, how and why does an elected official spend over $480,000 in six elections cycles, an average of $80,000 every two year election cycle, when he has no opposition in any of the races? You can’t make this stuff up, it’s too outrageous!

Part of the answer is in the globe-trotting Clemmons has paid for out of his campaign funds, including several trips to Israel and one to Egypt. He also paid for numerous trips around the United States out of the campaign account.

One interesting item in the Clemmons’ records is that between April 2008 and December 2012, Clemmons paid Heather Ammons Crawford a total of $146,830.69 out of his campaign account. He paid Crawford $2,000 per month from April 2008 thru April 2009 for “campaign” and/or “contract services” From May 2009 thru December 2012 Clemmons paid Crawford $2,500 per month for those services. There were also monthly payments to Crawford listed as expenses.

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Voters’ Primary Choice – Representative Democracy or Oligarchy

April 15, 2020 7:09 AM
Voters’ Primary Choice – Representative Democracy or Oligarchy

Horry County voters will have distinct choices in a number of local and state primary races this year as challenges to incumbents continue to rise.

Those choices simply put are a decision by voters on whether they support candidates who represent the needs of the citizens or candidates who represent the oligarchy who wish to continue to control government for their own self-interest.

Eight weeks remain until primary election day for voters to make their choices.

For the past few weeks there has been talk that the primaries would be postponed until later in the summer. This does not appear to be the case as the majority of the General Assembly members believe holding the primaries in June will give them an advantage in the primaries as incumbents.

Last week, the General Assembly added an additional $15 million to the state contingency fund to help make voting “safer” for voters. So, it looks certain that June 9th is the date to vote in the primaries.

Campaigning directly with voters will be difficult as long as the current coronavirus restrictions remain in place. It will be important for voters to watch what is posted in social media and weigh the information being presented.

In general, it is my opinion that the candidates who will best represent voters against the fading but still influential power structure in the county are challengers, not incumbents. Not in every case, because a few incumbents have served the best interests of the county citizens, but in most cases.

Several S. C. House primaries come quickly to mind to illustrate the above points.

Case Brittain will provide a formidable challenge to 18 year incumbent Alan Clemmons in S. C. House District 107.

Clemmons is one of the elected officials the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce can always count on to do its bidding. There has been no louder voice than Clemmons for Interstate 73, a project that is years off and will immediately benefit only some of his donors in the local area. Then we have Clemmons’ many trips to the Middle East, funded by his campaign chest.

Brittain is a Horry County native and local attorney. He is tired of seeing Horry County be a donor county to other areas of the state, always an afterthought when it comes to state funding for schools, roads and the like. He wants to put the “Grand” back into the Grand Strand. It would be nice to have a representative from Myrtle Beach who worries more about the citizens in his district than the current one who spends more time with citizens of Israel and Egypt than those at home.

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Uneasy Lie the Heads that Wear Incumbency – First Week of Candidate Filing

March 24, 2020 7:15 AM
Uneasy Lie the Heads that Wear Incumbency – First Week of Candidate Filing

The coronavirus has not stopped this year’s candidate filing in Horry County from being the most active filing period in the county for many years.

Grand Strand Daily is tracking 22 local races for county offices or local representatives or senators to the General Assembly.

After the first week of filing, which ended yesterday, there are currently 13 contested races of the 22 being tracked and at least two more county council candidates will probably have opposition before filing closes next Monday. If the expected two challengers file in council districts 3 and 4, all five county council seats up for election in this cycle will be contested and all will be Republican primary contests.

One incumbent council member, Paul Prince in District 9, is retiring and four candidates, including Prince’s son, are contesting the Republican primary for that seat. The other four incumbent council members up for reelection are Cam Crawford and Danny Hardee, who already have opponents filed to challenge them and Dennis DiSabato and Gary Loftus, who are expected to have opponents by the end of filing.

The main reason county council is drawing so much attention is a feeling among voters that incumbent council members are only listening to the development community that funds their campaigns and voters’ concerns about flooding and rapid development are being ignored. (See the image at the end of this post, which has been making its way around Facebook, with the heads of the four incumbents inserted).

On the state level, voters are tired of being donors to the rest of the state while road and flooding problems in particular are not being addressed and most incumbents are content with sound bites and photo ops rather than trying to address solutions.

Four incumbents who, I believe, will face particularly serious challenges are state Reps. Alan Clemmons and Heather Ammons Crawford, Sen. Luke Rankin and county council member Cam Crawford. They are being opposed by Case Brittain, Mark Epps, John Gallman and Jeremy Halpin, respectively.

If the expected challengers emerge against DiSabato and Loftus, those races will be hotly contested also.

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Gardner Names Special Flood Committee

February 25, 2020 4:21 PM
Gardner Names Special Flood Committee

Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner named a special committee during the county Infrastructure and Regulation Committee meeting Tuesday to study possible options for mitigating the flooding problems from which the county has consistently suffered since 2015.

Gardner appointed Harold Worley as chairman of the special committee with Al Allen, William Bailey, Kevin Hardee, April O’Leary, Alex Hyman, Nick Godwin, Forrest Beverly, Steve Gosnell and Gardner himself as committee members.

The committee brings together points of view from local and state elected officials, citizen and construction industry perspectives with county administrator Gosnell to provide technical expertise as a licensed professional engineer. The county’s Infrastructure and Regulation Division will provide staff support to the special committee.

 Gardner said he believed flooding was such a problem in the county that he decided to appoint a special committee to specifically focus on flooding issues and possible ways to mitigate the problem.

The special committee will report back recommendations for mitigation to the county I&R Committee who will discuss and vote whether to forward those recommendations to full county council for approval and action.

In other flooding related issues discussed at the I&R meeting, the county Storm Water Management Department told committee members that there are approximately 250 outstanding work orders dating to as far back as 2015. The committee was also presented with a list of budget enhancements for personnel and equipment totaling approximately $4.4 million that the department needed to clear the backlog and allow the department to meet current requirements.

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What Is Really Possible to Mitigate Storm Water Flooding

February 22, 2020 4:09 AM
What Is Really Possible to Mitigate Storm Water Flooding

Flooding has again taken center stage in the news in Horry County this week while government officials continue to search for solutions.

Horry County faces potential problems from two different types of flooding. Flash flooding from extremely heavy rainfalls over a short period of time and riverine flooding when a large amount of water makes its way through the watershed from North Carolina to below Georgetown before it exits to the ocean.

While the county storm water plan addresses ways to attempt to mitigate flash flooding, attempts to mitigate riverine flooding have been largely ignored.

Even the task force put together by Governor Henry McMaster after Hurricane Florence suggested little more than to recommend cleaning out ditches, planting some trees and searching for ways to buyout homes which have been damaged or destroyed by recent flooding events.

Since this is an election year, the flooding problem is now present in the political dialogue where it should have been continuous at least since Hurricane Florence in 2018.

Horry County District 6 council member Cam Crawford opened his reelection campaign by proposing a resolution for county council to consider that would urge the state legislature to pass a bill his wife, Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford, is pushing in Columbia that would allow the county to borrow money from the state to provide local matching funds for buyouts of some flood affected homes.

Jeremy Halpin, Crawford’s primary opponent, said more is needed than just a bill for the county to borrow money. He proposed County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner appoint a Flooding Task Force subcommittee to propose, study and recommend a number of options to help the county mitigate flooding of both types.

Crawford responded by calling Halpin’s suggestion ‘political grandstanding’ and said he (Crawford) has been involved with the Governor’s Task Force working “since Hurricane Florence on research and meaningful solutions to flooding in our area.”

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Clemmons Attempts to Dictate I-73 Funding to Local Governments

February 14, 2020 3:16 AM
Clemmons Attempts to Dictate I-73 Funding to Local Governments

Rep. Alan Clemmons chaired a sub-committee meeting Wednesday at the state house for a hospitality fee bill that attempts to dictate what local governments must do with regard to spending hospitality fee revenue.

After the meeting, Clemmons attempted to put a positive spin on the meeting by telling a local television reporter, “They say that when both parties aren’t happy then you’ve usually reached a fair middle ground.”

I’m not sure who “they” are, but that thinking doesn’t apply in this case. The reason nobody from the cities or county representatives at the meeting voiced anything positive about the bill is this really is a terrible bill.

Clemmons is one of the sponsors of the bill joined by Russell Fry, Heather Ammons Crawford and Tim McGinnis. It is notable here that the four can’t even get the entire Horry County delegation signed on as co-sponsors.

Clemmons has tried to spin the bill as a settlement for the lawsuit between Myrtle Beach and Horry County.

It is not.

The real purpose of the bill is to attempt to force local governments in Horry County to do what the ‘failing four’ can’t get done at the state level – Fund Interstate 73. The entire focus in Columbia is to get as much funding for I-73 from hospitality fee revenue as possible while ignoring the many more immediate, local government needs that the revenue could be used toward.

Initially this bill tried to dictate that all the hospitality fee revenue be used for I-73 construction. An amendment was approved Wednesday that would give the cities approximately one-half of the revenue to use for improvement of tourist related infrastructure and to fund other tourist related needs. The county would get zero for local needs.

The formula established in the amendment would provide approximately $20 million annually to I-73 construction costs within Horry County. Note – Horry County is being asked to be the only county in the history of interstate highway construction to completely fund construction costs of the portion of the interstate highway within its borders through locally generated tax revenue.

Future state and federal funding, if ever appropriated, is projected to be spent in Marion, Dillon and Marlboro counties, not Horry.

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Myrtle Beach’s Problem with the Truth about I-73 Funding

February 11, 2020 4:47 AM
Myrtle Beach’s Problem with the Truth about I-73 Funding

Myrtle Beach city government just can’t keep itself from spinning stories in an attempt to make itself look good while hiding the truth from the public.

The following post, which appeared on the city government Facebook page yesterday, is a perfect example of the city’s spin:

“The City of Myrtle Beach supports I-73…

“The Myrtle Beach City Council is on the record as supporting I-73. Twice in the past year, City Council has approved resolutions expressing its support for I-73. In April 2019, Council publicly stated that it would devote financial resources to I-73 once the Hospitality Fee issue was resolved. Myrtle Beach has demonstrated its commitment to I-73. Question: Has the Horry County Council voted publicly to support I-73?”

The day Myrtle Beach filed suit against Horry County to stop countywide collection of the 1.5% Hospitality Fee, the local revenue stream for funding I-73 dried up.

The above post says in April 2019 Myrtle Beach city council approved a resolution expressing support for I-73. The resolution was passed after city council refused a settlement offer for the Hospitality Fee lawsuit from county council that provided funding for I-73.

The county’s settlement offer would have designated one-third of the revenue from countywide collection of the 1.5% Hospitality Fee to fund I-73 with the remaining two-thirds of the revenue collected within the city limits being transferred back to the city for use as city council determined.

The following is an extract from a letter Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune wrote to county Chairman Johnny Gardner rejecting the settlement offer:

“Thank you for your letter of April 3. As you are aware, the Myrtle Beach City Council has expressed its willingness to commit support for the I-73 project. However, since the proposed funding source is the subject of litigation, we are unable to engage in negotiations under the terms described in your letter and related attachments.

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State Legislation Would Not Solve Lawsuit or I-73 Funding

January 20, 2020 3:55 AM
State Legislation Would Not Solve Lawsuit or I-73 Funding

A bill being sponsored by four local state representatives is erroneously being promoted as legislation that would settle a lawsuit between Myrtle Beach and Horry County and provide funding for Interstate 73.

Nowhere in the original complaint or subsequent motions of that lawsuit, filed March 2019, is Interstate 73 mentioned.

The legislation, H4745, sponsored by Reps. Alan Clemmons, Russell Fry, Heather Ammons Crawford and Tim McGinnis would provide the extension of what is called a countywide ‘legacy hospitality fee’ as long the revenue derived from the countywide portion is used specifically to fund an interstate highway project.

When Myrtle Beach filed the original complaint last March, it specifically sought end collection of a 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within its corporate limits. Immediately after filing the lawsuit, Myrtle Beach city council passed new accommodations and hospitality fee taxes, allowed by current state law, to capture revenue from those levies for use on projects of council’s discretion within the city limits.

North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach quickly followed Myrtle Beach’s lead in passing new accommodations and hospitality taxes within their respective jurisdictions.

The day Myrtle Beach filed its lawsuit seeking to stop collection of the countywide hospitality fee, countywide funding for I-73 was dead.

A section of the original complaint filed by Myrtle Beach claims the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee, established by a 1996 county ordinance, was illegally extended by county council when a sunset provision was removed from the ordinance in April 2017.

County council voted to remove the sunset provision at the urging of then county chairman Mark Lazarus. It was Lazarus who introduced I-73 into the discussion by mentioning the I-73 project as one of the possible future uses of hospitality fee revenue.

A current proposed settlement for the lawsuit ends any authority of the county to continue countywide collection of the 1.5% hospitality fee and allows all the cities within the county to collect and use the revenue from their newly passed hospitality and accommodations taxes as their respective councils determine within their respective jurisdictions.

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