Post Tagged with: "Johnny Gardner"

Johnny Gardner’s Campaign Message Spurs County Council Discussion

June 20, 2018 2:03 AM
Johnny Gardner’s Campaign Message Spurs County Council Discussion

One week after defeating incumbent Mark Lazarus for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council Chairman, Johnny Gardner’s campaign message is already driving council discussions.

Throughout his campaign Gardner spoke of putting “Public Safety First” and charging fees on new development to help pay for the impact it causes on county goods and services.

During its regular meeting Tuesday night, council approved two resolutions directly tied to those issues.

By an 11-1 margin, council member Tyler Servant opposing, council approved a resolution to encourage the South Carolina General Assembly to amend the current state Impact Fee law to make it more user friendly for local governments struggling to meet the costs associated with new development.

Later in the meeting, Servant introduced a resolution to instruct staff to bring back to council a proposed advisory referendum question to address raising tax millage to fund increased salaries and additional personnel for police and fire/rescue departments as well as an additional police precinct for Carolina Forest.

After discussion, it was agreed to split the issue into two referendum questions, one for police and rescue personnel and another for fire, because of the different ways in which police and rescue personnel are funded in the budget from that used to fund fire personnel.

County Administrator Chris Eldridge was instructed to meet with the the Police and Fire/Rescue chiefs to determine the increased needs in their respective departments to fully meet the county’s public safety requirements.

Council must approve referendum questions by the end of July in order to meet the August 15th deadline to have them included on the November 2018 general election ballot.

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Recount Confirms Gardner Win, Lazarus Concedes

June 17, 2018 7:01 AM
Recount Confirms Gardner Win, Lazarus Concedes

Five days after winning the election for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council Chairman, Johnny Gardner was “recertified” as the winner over incumbent Mark Lazarus by the Horry County Election Commission.

After the S.C. Election Commission approved an audit of the final tally of the votes, the certified result of the election was announced at 11:41 a.m. Saturday June 16, 2018, as Gardner 12,426, Lazarus 12,313, a margin of 113 votes.

The count also included the race for House District 104 where William Bailey received 2,312 votes to 2,295 votes for incumbent House member Greg Duckworth.

Shortly after a mandatory recount confirmed both results, Lazarus called Gardner to concede the election. Gardner said Lazarus was very professional and gracious with his words when he conceded.

Gardner was initially certified as the winner two days ago with an automatic recount scheduled for the next day. When people returned for the recount, they were told that another 209 votes had been found in machines from the Ocean Forest 2 precinct.

This announcement began one and one-half days of confusion, bordering at times on chaos, before the local election commission received approval of an audit of the votes from the state election commission.

During the interval, James Wiles, who told commissioners he was “representing the Lazarus campaign”, gave the members a sheet of paper which he called a “Freedom of Information request” and said the campaign objected to recertification of the results.

“I am prepared to start discovery to see if there should be a protest,” Wiles added.

According to all the information I could find on Wiles, he was suspended by the Pennsylvania Bar Association in 2005 and is not a member of the South Carolina Bar Association. He can certainly act as a private citizen representing himself before the election commission, but what status he had “representing the Lazarus campaign” and “prepared to start discovery” is open to question.

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Gardner Wins Council Chairman Race – UPDATED

June 13, 2018 5:47 PM
Gardner Wins Council Chairman Race – UPDATED

UPDATE – After counting provisional and challenge ballots, the results of the election for Horry County Council Chairman were certified as Gardner 12,358 votes, Lazarus 12,160. An automatic recount will be held Friday June 15th at 10:30 a.m., but it is expected that there will be little, if any, change in the above results.

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Challenger Johnny Gardner defeated incumbent Mark Lazarus by 196 votes for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council Chairman.

As no Democrat filed for the seat, Gardner’s victory in the November 2018 general election is a virtual lock.

Election night results showed a count of 12,252 for Gardner to 12,058 for Lazarus a lead of 194 votes. There were problems with closing of eight election machines on election night, which had to wait until Wednesday afternoon to be counted.

According to Sandy Martin, Director of Voter Registration and Elections for Horry County, an additional 100 votes were counted from the eight machines. When all were counted, Gardner gained two votes to his victory margin. Since the margin of victory falls within one percent of the total vote, an automatic recount will be conducted in accordance with state law.

The election results will be certified by the Horry County Election Commission at 10:00 a.m. Thursday June 14, 2018.

Lazarus will have until noon Wednesday June 20, 2018 to file an appeal of the certification. However, there do not appear to be any reasonable grounds to base an appeal that would need to show the 196 vote margin could be overcome.

Gardner’s victory is considered a big upset by many political pundits in the area. Several compared it to former Congressman John Jenrette’s victory over 17 term incumbent John McMillan in the 1972 Democratic Primary for the, then, S.C. 6th Congressional District nomination.

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Who are the Real Thugs in Horry County?

June 11, 2018 8:56 AM
Who are the Real Thugs in Horry County?

The above cartoon by Ed Wilson depicts the now famous incident that resulted in Horry County Council chairman Mark Lazarus calling police and fire fighters in the county “thugs.”

Lazarus called them thugs because several first responders asked him tough questions at the Burgess Community Forum last week, then, heckled Lazarus as he walked out of the meeting.

The use of the word “thug” by Lazarus was ridiculous because its normal definition refers to violent, criminal type behavior none of which was in evidence at the forum.

The term “thugs” was also given to anti-war protesters during the 1960’s and anti-nuclear protesters throughout the western democracies in the 1970’s.

I would submit the term “thug” can also be applied to those in government who use their position and power to bully people or ignore the law to achieve desired results.

For example, after Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones request for an additional person in her office was denied by a combination of council members and the county administrator, Jones filed suit to gain the position.

The county’s response to the lawsuit was to attack Jones’ credibility and performance personally, a typical bully (thug) type of response.

Early this year, several council members said Lazarus was not going to intervene to attempt to help settle the case amicably, but was willing to let it go to court for resolution.

When Jones walked out of a council meeting after the discussion ventured into the area of her lawsuit, Lazarus was quite critical with several derogatory comments aimed at Jones. However, when discussion at a political forum entered into an area that made Lazarus uncomfortable, he had no problem walking out.

Does anyone else find that hypocritical?

However, that attitude appeared to change after Johnny Gardner filed to challenge Lazarus for the Republican nomination for county council chairman and it was apparent Jones had significant support from the public for her lawsuit.

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Heroes or Thugs – You Decide

June 10, 2018 7:37 AM
Heroes or Thugs – You Decide

The reactions surrounding Mark Lazarus walking out of the Burgess Community Forum Thursday night rather than face tough questions from the audience highlight the completely different approaches to governing of the two candidates for the Horry County Council chairman Republican nomination.

Lazarus and Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford, a Lazarus campaign consultant, immediately attempted to label as “union thugs” those who put Lazarus on the spot with questions and jeered his walking out. Ammons Crawford even speculated they weren’t from Horry County, which just shows how little they are in touch with the constituents they presume to represent.

Let me tell you a little about the two “union thugs” who asked difficult questions that seemed to offend Lazarus and that he used as an excuse to not “stand here and be abused by these guys”:

One is Chad Caton, a former Horry County fire fighter/EMT who is now on disability from injuries suffered on the job. Caton is married and a resident of Horry County. He was a volunteer fire fighter for Horry County Fire Rescue for five years and a full time fire fighter for HCFR for three years before suffering injuries. Caton is not a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters local fraternal organization.

The other is Casey Canterbury, a veteran Horry County Police Department officer who is a native of Horry County and a graduate of Socastee High School. He has served approximately nine years as a police officer in Horry County, five of those years with HCPD. He is the President of the local Fraternal Order of Police fraternal organization.

Neither the IAFF nor the FOP are collective bargaining union organizations in Horry County or the State of South Carolina. Lazarus and Ammons Crawford know this. However, they apparently believe use of the term “union thug” will discredit the men in the eyes of the public and make the elected officials objects of sympathy.

In 2014, when he last ran for reelection as county council chairman, Lazarus sought and received the endorsements of both the IAFF and FOP.

This year, Lazarus again sought those endorsements but they went instead to his opponent Johnny Gardner. One presumes the act of not endorsing Lazarus this time around changes rank and file Horry County police officers and fire fighters from “nice guys” to “union thugs.”

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Lazarus Walks Out of Burgess Forum

June 8, 2018 10:23 AM
Lazarus Walks Out of Burgess Forum

The key issue in the campaign for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council erupted last night at the candidate forum in the Burgess Community and council chairman Mark Lazarus chose to walk out of the meeting rather than discuss it.

The issue is the treatment of public safety personnel in particular and county employees in general. According to numerous sources from rank and file county employees, Lazarus, in coordination with senior staff, treats them like automatons to do as they’re told and face retribution if they ask any questions.

Below are three emails sent to the Johnny Gardner campaign and shared with Grand Strand Daily from rank and file first responders who are completely frustrated with the way they have been treated and ignored by county council and county senior staff. Messages like those below are sent to the Gardner campaign on a daily basis by different individuals:

“I’m sure the members of HCFR will support you but they truly fear retribution if things don’t turn out right. That’s how it’s been here. In the recent past about 2/3 of the supervisors at HCFR were transferred for no apparent reason. Also our Deputy Chief was asked to resign because he had a dissenting opinion from the Public Safety Director. So, in my eyes fear of retribution is real.”

“Thank you for recognizing our need in the fire rescue and police public safety side of things. Our departments have gone on too long operating under the good ole boy budget … thank you again for fighting for us, the public safety guys/citizens of Horry County, who only want our departments to serve the county to its fullest capacity!”

“I am a FF with HCFR, and I just wanted to let you know that you are very well appreciated and backed by myself, and just about everyone I know in the Dept. Can’t wait for June 12th to get someone on the council who sees the needs of the county as a priority.”

Questioned on treatment of personnel within the Fire Rescue Department by a former fire fighter who is now disabled because of injuries suffered from falling debris while fighting a fire in the county, Lazarus told the man “You are no longer a county employee, I am not going to answer your question.”

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Johnny Gardner Drawing Crowds to Campaign Events

May 23, 2018 5:33 AM
Johnny Gardner Drawing Crowds to Campaign Events

Pictured above Johnny Gardner addresses crowd at a campaign event.

Over 250 people attended a Meet and Greet for First Responders hosted by the Johnny Gardner Campaign for Horry County Council Chairman last night.

The above estimate of crowd size was derived from the number of meals served at the event. And the food was excellent – Low Country Seafood Boil and BBQ with all the fixins’. Entertainment was provided by local Bluegrass music celebrities McRoy Gardner and Friends.

A large number of first responders – police, fire and EMS personnel – came from all over Horry County to attend. Officers, both active and retired, residing in Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, Garden City, Socastee, Carolina Forest, Conway and the rural areas of the county all made the trip to Conway for the event.

I met one retired police officer who is a relatively new resident in Horry County. He retired after 26 years with the Randolph Township, (NJ) police department. Initially he and his wife lived for 10 years in North Carolina before relocating to Horry County for their golden years.

Why do I mention this? It demonstrates the reach of the Gardner campaign.

After speaking to him it turns out we graduated from the same high school in Rockaway, NJ and grew up within a couple miles of each other, but, with a nine year age difference between us, never met until last night. This officer is a strong supporter of Fraternal Order of Police National President Chuck Canterbury, a retired HCPD officer, who is a strong supporter of Gardner.

Canterbury and Rob Mullaney, President of Horry County Professional Fire Fighters Local 4345 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, both spoke to the crowd.

Each mentioned the lack of support Horry County Police and Fire/Rescue departments have received from Horry County Council as numbers in the ranks of both departments have suffered attrition due to the lack of sufficient staffing in each department.

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Enhancement for Fire and EMS Personnel Missing from Horry County Budget

May 21, 2018 7:30 AM
Enhancement for Fire and EMS Personnel Missing from Horry County Budget

CORRECTION CORRECTION
I received a call from Mark Lazarus this morning. Lazarus informed me that I was incorrect in what I reported about Fire and EMS enhancements. After reviewing the tape of the Spring Budget Retreat, before first reading of the budget during the Spring Budget Retreat, council voted to amend the budget to include the extra three percent increase for fire fighters from the county’s Fire Fund and I originally reported it incorrectly below as not being in the budget. I did not see any amendment to appropriate general fund money for the EMS workers. Lazarus informed me that the EMS increase is also in the budget from first reading on and he took exception to my use of the word retribution.

From: Powell, Justin Sent: Monday, May 21, 2018 10:51 AM
To: Mark Lazarus
Cc: Eldridge, Chris ; Spivey, Barry ; Huffman, Joe
Subject: FW: Budget Ordinance Proposed Vs. 1st Reading Revised for 2nd Reading

Mark:

The second reading ordinance adopted by County Council included all proposed increases for public safety, both law enforcement and Fire and Rescue. The first reading ordinance initially proposed to County Council included the $1/hour increase for all law enforcement (Police, Sheriff, Detention). Hence, no amendment was required.

During adoption of first reading on March 23, a motion was made to adopt the Fire and Rescue increases that were proposed on March 22. This is found at approximately 1:49:00 on the video from that day. Given that amendment, the second reading ordinance submitted to County Council included the increase for Fire and Rescue as adopted by County Council.

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Press Conference Touts Johnny Gardner Candidacy

May 1, 2018 6:00 PM
Press Conference Touts Johnny Gardner Candidacy

(Pictured above left to right – Chuck Canterbury, Rob Mullaney (podium) and Roger Odachowski)

A joint press conference Tuesday morning including Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police and a retired Horry County police officer, Roger Odachowski, President of the South Carolina Professional Fire Fighters Association of the International Association of Fire Fighters and Rob Mullaney, President Horry County Professional Fire Fighters Local 4345 of the IAFF, spoke of the reasons challenger Johnny Gardner has received the endorsement of their respective associations for Horry County Council Chairman.

Canterbury said Gardner’s willingness to sit down with FOP officials and discuss the county’s needs and explore solutions to the problems of understaffing in the police department was an important consideration for the endorsement.

“It is clear to our members that Johnny Gardner is the man to lead council,” said Canterbury. “He cares about this county and its people.”

Canterbury said current council chairman Mark Lazarus had cancelled several meetings for the same type of discussions.

“The only time Lazarus kept an appointment to meet with us was when he was seeking our endorsement,” Canterbury said.

Canterbury said HCPD is approximately 200 patrol officers below what is needed based on the population and area of Horry County.

Odachowski said Horry County Fire Rescue is approximately 230 fire fighters short based on the call volume and national averages for properly manning the county’s 41 fire stations. He said most county fire fighters suffer from fatigue due to 48 hour shifts and the call volume they respond to.

Odachowski spoke of a presentation he made to Horry County Council last winter during public input and the response he received. During the presentation, Odachowski offered solutions available from the IAFF but mispronounced Horry County several times.

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Budgets, Elections and Micromanagement in Horry County

April 30, 2018 7:30 AM
Budgets, Elections and Micromanagement in Horry County

There are six weeks to go before county voters will go to the polls to vote in local, state and federal primary elections.

The race which seems to be drawing the largest amount of attention throughout Horry County at this time is the Republican Primary contest for Horry County Council Chairman between challenger Johnny Gardner and incumbent Mark Lazarus.

At the same time, Horry County Council is considering its budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which begins July 1, 2018. Four weeks ago, Grand Strand Daily ran a story about the proposed FY 2019 budget calling it an election year budget because of provisions in the proposed budget that appear to be included just to attract voters to incumbents.

Unfortunately, this type of focus on the budget at election time does not serve the best interests of council or the citizens.

According to multiple sources within county government, decisions for Horry County are being micromanaged by a partnership between Lazarus and County Administrator Chris Eldridge.

This partnership proposed an average three percent merit raise for all county employees with somewhat larger raises targeted to public safety personnel (police, fire and EMS) in the FY2019 budget.

This is not to say the proposed raises are unjustified. However, this type of targeting and its associated hype during council’s Spring Budget Retreat appear to be more about the votes of county employees than the needs of the county. County employees along with their families, neighbors and friends comprise a large voting block.

The micromanagement partnership focus appears to be on the wrong issues, however.

Despite the proposed raises, Horry County Professional Firefighter Local 4345 of the International Association of Firefighters and Coastal Carolina Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 12 endorsed the candidacy of Gardner in the upcoming June 12, 2018 primary.

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