Post Tagged with: "Horry County Council"

Attorney for Angie Jones Hits Core of County Lawsuit Argument

January 8, 2018 8:08 AM
Attorney for Angie Jones Hits Core of County Lawsuit Argument

Gene Connell, attorney for Treasurer Angie Jones in her lawsuit against county government, hit at the core of the county’s argument in its answer and counterclaim to Jones’ complaint.

In a Motion to Strike certain portions of the county answer, Connell wrote, “…such allegations have nothing to do with the case, nor with Jones’s request of this court and are only meant to defame and/or to be scandalous to the Plaintiff,” and addressing another allegation “Defendant only seeks to impugn the Plaintiff’s character.”

These statements hit at the basic core of the county’s argument. Certain members of county staff and county government have become imperious in their attitudes toward disagreement, criticism and anyone who dares to challenge them.

Connell is correct in that the county has ignored the essence of Jones’ complaint and has chosen to seek revenge on her for filing the lawsuit by attacking her personally.

‘Attack’, ‘revenge’ and ‘fake news’ have quickly become a staple part of political lexicon in America today to the detriment of American style government and the citizens it is supposed to serve.

Many of our supposed leaders forget they were elected to serve, not anointed to rule.

Frankly, all Jones is attempting to do is attain enough employees to provide the level of service the citizens of the county expect and deserve.

According to state law, employees of the Treasurer’s Office and level of service fall only in the purview of the county treasurer.

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New Year Brings New Hope and New Challenges

January 2, 2018 5:49 AM
New Year Brings New Hope and New Challenges

A New Year traditionally brings with it new hope and positive feelings about the year ahead.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus commented in a Facebook post on New Year’s Day about making 2018 a year of positivism. I hope Lazarus is able to achieve that positivism in county government.

This year will be interesting with three new members recently elected to Myrtle Beach City Council, including a new mayor, and seven council members up for re-election for Horry County Council including Chairman Lazarus.

But it takes more than hopes and feelings to achieve positive results in government. It takes hard work, transparency and proper goal setting to get the most “bang” for each “buck” collected from the taxpaying public.

Both Myrtle Beach City Council and Horry County Council have been lax in this area in years past.

Maybe the most important thing both councils have to remember is the citizens elect them to make decisions that benefit the community as a whole. Council then directs staff to carry out these decisions.

Too often, this process has become muddled with certain council and staff members working behind closed doors to benefit special interests at the expense of the general public. This is at least part of the reason Myrtle Beach has three new members of council.

Below are just a few of the actions by city council that the public voted against in November:

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Questioning the Arrogant County Response to the Angie Jones Lawsuit

December 18, 2017 11:02 AM
Questioning the Arrogant County Response to the Angie Jones Lawsuit

Horry County’s response to the lawsuit filed by Treasurer Angie Jones raises many questions about what exactly is going on in county government.

Shortly after assuming office on July 1, 2017, Jones requested funding be added to the Treasurer’s Office budget of approximately $30,000 in order to hire one additional clerk to help with service to customers in Conway, Myrtle Beach, Little River and Surfside Beach offices as needed.

This request was rejected by the county council’s Administration Committee.

As a result, Jones filed her lawsuit against the county requesting sufficient funding and staffing to effectively run her office.

In response to the summons and complaint, the county charged, “… such issues are solely as a result of her (Jones) 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.”

In addition, the county alleges Jones has exceeded the budget for the Treasurer’s Office and should be held personally responsible for paying back to the county any budget deficit as well as attorney’s fees for defending the lawsuit.

Speaking of mismanagement and paying back budget deficits by this county government is laughable in light of past and present issues with its initiatives, its budget and its decisions.

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Impact Fees Wrong Solution for Horry County Council

December 3, 2017 5:27 AM
Impact Fees Wrong Solution for Horry County Council

An old issue has again surfaced as Horry County Council is reportedly looking at ways to change the state impact fee law to help pay for the costs of development.

Twelve to twenty or so years ago this was a recurring issue council routinely discussed until it became apparent nothing would change in Columbia.

That discussion was interrupted by the collapse of the mortgage market and resulting depression which began in 2008 and which, now, the housing market appears to be finally recovering from.

The current impact fee law was effectively written to ensure impact fees would not be levied in Horry County. A primary sponsor on that piece of legislation was Horry County’s own Sen. Luke Rankin.

The builders, real estate agents and their attorneys do not want impact fees in Horry County and their lobby in Columbia has been strong enough, to date, to stop them.

New construction creates increased costs to provide local government infrastructure and services. Impact fees theoretically have those costs initially paid for by the new residents. Without impact fees, those costs are spread among all residents throughout the county.

Further limiting the ability of local government to meet the costs of providing new, as well as maintaining existing, infrastructure and services is the infamous Act 388 of 2006, which was vigorously supported by our county legislative delegation.

Much of the blame for any shortage of police officers, fire and emergency services, roads and other infrastructure lies directly at the feet of those we have been sending to Columbia over the years.

However, by looking to effect changes in the impact fee law, Horry County Council is also being shortsighted.

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Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones Lawsuit Raises Questions About County Budget

November 25, 2017 11:04 AM
Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones Lawsuit Raises Questions About County Budget

A lawsuit filed by Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones against Horry County Government earlier this week raises questions about the county budget and the process used to establish it.

In her complaint, Jones claims the county government is not meeting its constitutional responsibility to adequately fund and staff her department.

As a result, Jones says her department is short of personnel necessitating closing of satellite offices for periods of time during the workday, thereby inhibiting the amount and timeliness of service provided by the department to the public.

Jones was elected to office in November 2016, but was not sworn in until the beginning of the current fiscal year on July 1, 2017, in accordance with state law.

During the interim period between election and swearing in, Jones says she was not allowed by county council to take part in the budget process for the current fiscal year, even though she knew additional personnel were needed in the department.

During an interview on “Talking Politics”, a television show co-hosted by John Bonsignor and this writer, Jones said she approached the county administration committee to request funds to hire another administrative assistant to help alleviate the shortages in satellite offices.

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Horry County Council Keeps Circus Alive

June 9, 2017 5:06 AM
Horry County Council Keeps Circus Alive

“The Greatest Show on Earth” closed last month after 146 years of performances, but the circus remains alive and well among Horry County Council members.

Unfortunately for members, Horry County Council meetings will never be known as “The Greatest Show on Earth”. But, they may well be ranked high among the weirdest shows in politics.

Considering the dysfunctional mess that passes for federal government in Washington, D.C., that is not a ranking to be proud of.

Tuesday’s regular meeting of Horry County Council saw council members jumping through hoops to avoid making what seems an obvious decision regarding the Horry County Solid Waste Authority board.

The show apparently allowed the candidacy of Norfleet Jones for reappointment to the SWA board to remain alive for a little longer.

Jones served two consecutive terms on the SWA board from 2004-2012. After a one year hiatus, Jones was reappointed to the SWA board in 2013 for another four year term and is now seeking reappointment.

According to Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti, Jones was illegally appointed to the authority board in 2013 because he only had the one year hiatus, after serving two consecutive terms on the board, instead of the at least two years required by Horry County ordinance.

According to Carotti, Jones is not eligible for reappointment since his current board term appointment was not made in accordance with Horry County law.

That explanation should have made the appointment of Sam Johnson, the other candidate for appointment to the SWA board, a slam dunk.

Instead, council members chose to go through a convoluted debate that ended with a motion to defer the vote.

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Questionable Executive Session Item for HCSWA Board

May 22, 2017 6:05 PM
Questionable Executive Session Item for HCSWA Board

A very questionable executive session item has been added to the HCSWA (Horry County Solid Waste Authority) board meeting agenda for Tuesday.

The executive session item is listed as “Legal Advice Regarding Upcoming Board Member Appointment.”

Executive sessions are allowed by state law to be held in private, out of the public eye, for several reasons. The most normal reasons are the discussion of a matter regarding personnel of the authority over whom the board has ultimate control or legal briefing on pending litigation, contracts or other legal matters.

In the case of the questionable item on Tuesday’s board agenda, none of those reasons exist.

While HCSWA board members may be thought of as personnel of the authority, they are not hired, fired, or dealt with in any other manner by members of the HCSWA board or other agency officials. They are strictly within the purview of Horry County Council.

HCSWA board members are nominated either by the League of Cities or the Horry County Council. Board members are appointed by vote of county council Nobody associated with the HCSWA is involved in the process in any manner.

HCSWA board members receiving “legal advice regarding upcoming board member appointment” is akin to the HCSWA board receiving an executive session briefing on legal matters regarding the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

The board has no authority in either above example and should not be wasting the time and money involved in receiving a briefing from the HCSWA counsel. Furthermore, it strikes me that the HCSWA counsel should know this is not an appropriate agenda item, especially in secret executive session.

Despite no need and no authority over the executive session item, expect the HCSWA board to go forward with this exercise in overreach.

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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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Horry County Council’s Hospitality Fee Slush Fund

April 24, 2017 5:21 AM
Horry County Council’s Hospitality Fee Slush Fund

Horry County Council is within one ordinance reading of establishing a permanent slush fund for pet projects using 60% of Hospitality Fee collections countywide as the revenue source.

A 2.5% hospitality fee tax is collected on prepared foods and drinks, admissions and lodging throughout the county.

Forty percent of the revenue (1% of the total 2.5% tax) is returned to the original jurisdiction (incorporated areas or the county for unincorporated area collections) in which the tax is collected. The remaining 60 percent of the revenue (1.5% of the total 2.5% tax) goes to Horry County specifically to pay off bonds issued for Ride I road projects.

Some of those bonds will be paid off in 2017 with the remaining bonds projected to be paid off in 2019. When the Hospitality Fee legislation was passed over 20 years ago, county council established a sunset provision for the 1.5% portion pledged for bonds.

In other words, 60 percent of the Hospitality Fee was supposed to go away when those Ride I bonds were paid off.

But, once a tax is created, government hates to see it destroyed.

Therefore, county council is moving rapidly to remove the sunset clause and allow the full 2.5% tax to be collected ad infinitum. According to county administrator Chris Eldridge, this tax currently collects approximately $38 million in revenue to the county annually.

To put that amount into perspective, $38 million is approximately 25 percent of the county’s general fund budget for Fiscal Year 2018, which begins July 1, 2017.

The revenue from this tax would not go directly into the general fund. According to state law, it must be spent on tourism related projects.

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City Has Potential Nuclear Option in Parking Fee Issue

March 30, 2017 3:39 PM
City Has Potential Nuclear Option in Parking Fee Issue

The City of Myrtle Beach holds a potential nuclear option that could blow up the current parking fee debate between the city and Horry County into a much bigger and more explosive issue.

Nuclear options in political discussion come in various categories. One we hear about often is a threatened change in U.S. Senate rules that could effectively prohibit filibusters.

However, the nuclear option that Myrtle Beach appears to hold could change taxation for many residents within the county, both inside and outside the city limits.

A little background:

The city and county have been at odds over parking fees and areas they are charged in Myrtle Beach city limits.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus has addressed city council on several occasions attempting to reach some type of compromise that would allow county residents to pay $100 per year for a parking decal that would allow county residents to park at all city owned paid parking locations.

To date, the city has been reluctant to adopt Lazarus’ plan.

Personally, I don’t believe any of the city’s parking fees are justified, especially because they go to fund the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation, a notoriously underperforming enterprise.

In response to the city’s reticence, county council voted last week to not include $200,000 for the city’s planned museum/library complex and $30,000 specifically for Chapin Memorial Library in the county budget. The city requested both amounts.

At Tuesday’s Myrtle Beach City Council meeting, council member Mary Jeffcoat requested city staff to prepare a review of the amount of property tax revenue city residents pay to the county and what services city residents receive as a result of those taxes.

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