Post Tagged with: "Horry County"

Lawsuit Challenging Proposed Campground Sale Latest Myrtle Beach Demonstration of Bad Public Policy

November 30, 2020 5:03 AM
Lawsuit Challenging Proposed Campground Sale Latest Myrtle Beach Demonstration of Bad Public Policy

The pending lawsuit between Horry County and the City of Myrtle Beach over the proceeds from the proposed sale of the city owned portion of Pirateland and Lakewood campgrounds highlights another example of poor public policy that has been the lowlight of incumbent Mayor Brenda Bethune and city council’s last three years in office.

This will be at least the fourth major lawsuit involving the city, three of which have Horry County on the opposing side, since Bethune took office.

The lawsuit that does not include Horry County was brought by merchants affected by a supposed “family friendly overlay zone” on Ocean Boulevard that prohibits the sale of certain items which are readily available and sold throughout the remainder of the city.

These prohibitions appear to be not only a violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees equal application of the law, but since over 90 percent of the affected businesses are Jewish owned, also appear to be discriminatory and anti-Semitic. Bethune led the charge in passing these discriminatory restrictions by city council.

Unequal application of the law and discrimination against a certain segment of the business community is certainly bad public policy.

In the three lawsuits involving Horry County, it appears the city was attempting to get its hands on pots of money that the city used extremely suspect logic to lay claims to,

One lawsuit has the county and Horry County School District suing the city over alleged misuse of approximately $20 million in TIF funds collected from Market Common.

A second lawsuit was initiated by the city against Horry County for hospitality fee collection. In this one, the city attempted to allege that the county has been illegally collecting hospitality fees in the city since January 1, 2017 and was looking to lay claim to over $100 million in funds.

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Hospitality Fee Lawsuit – What Does Myrtle Beach Really Want

October 30, 2020 4:50 AM
Hospitality Fee Lawsuit – What Does Myrtle Beach Really Want

With the City of Myrtle Beach announcing last week it plans to appeal the judge’s order on a settlement of the hospitality fee lawsuit it brought against Horry County, it appears the city has taken the stance of ‘my way or the highway’ on the lawsuit issue.

Everything has been settled and agreed to between the parties in the lawsuit except for the disbursement of approximately $19 million the county collected in the various city jurisdictions in the county between March and August 2019.

Horry County asked the judge to order that money be returned to the city’s in which it was collected. The judge agreed.

Myrtle Beach requested one half of those funds be returned to the cities and one-half established as a fund from which it may pay out refunds to individuals who paid the hospitality fee between the above months with any unclaimed amount going to the South Carolina Bar Association’s fund for legal services for low income residents.

Under the county plan, Myrtle Beach would receive $11,170,800 of the approximately $19 million total. This money could be spent on infrastructure and public safety services associated with tourism, according to state law.

Under the city plan, Myrtle Beach would receive $5,585,400. Why would the city want to receive less money and why would it appeal a judge’s order that awarded it more?

The dispute over the settlement money split is about interpretation of Rule 23 of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, which deals with class action lawsuits.

Myrtle Beach issued the following statement as an explanation, “This appeal is necessary to finally determine the rights of the other members of the class — those who paid the Hospitality Fee to Horry County during the period when it was in dispute — regarding distribution of the portion of the $19 million common fund that was not otherwise resolved by the settlement agreement.

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and City Manager John Pedersen have both added the city’s attorneys said the appeal is necessary in order to shield the city from any potential liability related to a suit that may be brought by a potential claimant.

I have spoken to two attorneys not involved in the lawsuit who said the city is already shielded from any claim by the trial judge’s order. In addition, neither believe this is a class action suit.

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SkyDive Myrtle Beach Lawsuit Advances to Deposition Stage

September 8, 2020 4:26 AM
SkyDive Myrtle Beach Lawsuit Advances to Deposition Stage

After being delayed for six months due to Covid 19 restrictions, depositions in the lawsuit SkyDive Myrtle Beach v. Horry County et al will begin September 30, 2020.

The lawsuit evolved from the county shutting down operations of SDMB and evicting them from the North Myrtle Beach airport using a Director’s Report from the FAA in which 112 alleged safety violations played a large part in the FAA claiming SDMB operations at Grand Strand Airport were unsafe.

This is where things get tricky. The county used an informal means of reporting the alleged safety violations, a county generated form called an “Unusual Incident Report”.

When responding to a Freedom of Information Request for documentation associated with these reports, the county responded by sending the Unusual Incident Reports but no supporting documentation.

A short memorandum from county attorney Arrigo Carotti included with the FOIA response said, “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.”

In other words, the county reported SDMB had committed 112 safety violations without ever investigating any, according to Carotti’s memo.

When a FOIA request for documentation on the 112 alleged safety violations was sent to the FAA, the response from Thomas A Winston, Manager Flight Standards Division, Southern Region of the FAA was, “You requested information regarding 112 allegations of safety violations used to make the table in the Director’s Report dated October 7, 2015 by Randall Fiertz. We searched our files maintained in the South Carolina Flight Standards District Office. We could not find any documents responsive to your request.”

The FAA had no documents supporting any of the 112 alleged safety violations. Anytime a suspected safety violation has taken place at an FAA regulated airport, a Mandatory Occurrence Report is supposed to be filed with the FAA and entered into the CEDAR (Comprehensive Electronic Data Analysis and Reporting) system. . No MORs were found in the FAA system with respect to the alleged violations by SDMB.

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The Incumbent Campaign of Misinformation and Desperation

June 7, 2020 11:21 AM
The Incumbent Campaign of Misinformation and Desperation

Misinformation and desperation are seeping into incumbent campaigns as we move toward primary voting Tuesday.

We have seen the SCGOP ignore campaign finance and ethics regulations to send numerous mailers supporting the reelection of Alan Clemmons and Heather Crawford.

Why would the SCGOP feel the need to insert itself into the contests between Republican candidates?

Obviously the party leaders in Columbia are afraid of losing two representatives who will do exactly what they are told to do.

Doing what they are told to do in Columbia doesn’t help the constituents Clemmons and Crawford are supposed to serve in Horry County. That’s why the panic.

In the past several days Clemmons and Luke Rankin have posted individual pictures of themselves with President Trump. Those were photo ops taken when the president was in Horry County during the Hurricane Florence flooding.

Both reportedly talked up the Interstate 73 project to the president during that trip. If Clemmons and Rankin are as close to President Trump as they would like you to believe, where are the federal dollars to build the interstate?

In similar fashion, one of the SCGOP mailers for Crawford and Clemmons touted an endorsement of them by the governor. Again, if they are so close to the governor and the legislative leaders in Columbia, for that matter, where are the state dollars to build I-73?

Clemmons has consistently stated I-73 is his number one priority as a legislator. Yet, year after year, no money comes from the state for the project.

Meanwhile Clemmons represents a declining Myrtle Beach that he appears to ignore as the number of empty commercial buildings in the city continues to rise every year.

One of the SCGOP mailers for Crawford attempted to present her as ‘working hard’ to solve the flooding problems in her district. She has done nothing other than clean out some ditches to help the citizens devastated by repeated flooding events since 2016 nor to mitigate future flooding. Again, no state grants have been forthcoming to help these needed initiatives.

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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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Candidate Filing One Week Away, Silly Season Has Already Begun

March 9, 2020 6:09 AM
Candidate Filing One Week Away, Silly Season Has Already Begun

Filing for elective office in the county is one week away which will begin what can only be called the “silly season” when facts are few and far between.

However, in one race, the one for a new county Auditor, “silly season” began last August when local CPA Clark Parker announced his candidacy for the position of Auditor and his various pronouncements and posts since.

When Parker announced his campaign last August, he said he could “contribute a lot to the needs of the county” and that “it is important that we collect all our taxes that are due to the county.”

Shortly after his announcement, local media reported Parker was delinquent in paying personal property taxes for tax years 2012, 2017 and 2018. Those delinquent taxes were paid by Parker after the information became public.

Parker was reportedly taking campaign advice from a group of advisors. One or more of those convinced Parker to begin placing campaign yard signs. County ordinance forbids such campaign signs from being placed until 45 days before election voting. Election voting for the Republican primary is June 9, 2020. Signs cannot be placed until near the end of next month, but Parkers were out last fall.

A Facebook post encouraged supporters to take a picture with one of the signs. The best picture was supposed to be rewarded with free dinner for two at Rioz Brazilian steakhouse.

One of Parker’s campaign operatives, Johnny Fryar, was a guest on Talking Politics, hosted by John Bonsignor and myself. I notified Fryar of the illegal timing of the signs. He tried to argue the point with no knowledge of the ordinance. Sometime after the show, the campaign signs were removed.

Since that time, other Facebook posts on Parker’s campaign page have called him the “technology candidate” even though he does not understand what technology the county has and does not understand that county technology is not controlled by the Auditor.

He has also called himself the “2nd Amendment candidate” although I haven’t the slightest clue what the right to bear arms has to do with an office that prepares tax bills for the county. Nor does Parker.

This is a campaign with no message other than throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall and hoping something sticks with voters.

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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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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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