Post Tagged with: "Johnny Gardner"

Searching for A False Narrative

January 3, 2019 8:47 AM
Searching for A False Narrative

False narratives appear to have become the standard emanating from some county government officials pursuing personal agendas over the past few years.

The latest is the five-page narrative crafted by county attorney Arrigo Carotti, with some input from county administrator Chris Eldridge, which attempted to place new council chairman Johnny Gardner involved in a nefarious plot that never happened.

Local editorial cartoonist Ed Wilson captured the essence of what went on between Eldridge and Carotti perfectly in the editorial cartoon accompanying this article. Once again, Wilson has demonstrated that a picture is worth 1,000 words.

The two examined snippets of conversations either or both had been party to with Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation CEO Sandy Davis to attempt to find incriminating evidence against Gardner. As Wilson depicts, the search was quite literally to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Eldridge used this bit of creative writing on the part of Carotti as an excuse to call in SLED to investigate. The narrative was also conveniently leaked to a Columbia media outlet to sensationalize the narrative.

This is not the first time a false narrative has been used as a county tactic to attempt to create a certain image in media.

One only has to read the county’s response and counterclaims, as amended, in the Angie Jones lawsuit against Eldridge and the county to view another example.

As I quoted from the amended response and counterclaims in the Jones lawsuit, the county said, “If Jones has any alleged “issues” with regard to staffing and competently and efficiently performing her duties as the Horry County Treasurer, such issues are solely as a result of her 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.”

The bit about doing favors for friends and political supporters is strikingly similar to allegations against Gardner.

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What is the Purpose of the Leaked Carotti Email?

December 23, 2018 6:50 AM
What is the Purpose of the Leaked Carotti Email?

A leaked five page email headed “Attorney Client Privileged” provided the big story in Horry County and state media in the last few days, but questions about the accuracy of the email contents raise questions about why it was produced.

The email from county attorney Arrigo Carotti to incumbent council members and county administrator Chris Eldridge supposedly was a confidential missive to inform council members about possible improper “threats” that allegedly occurred during a meeting between recently sworn in council chairman Johnny Gardner and Luke Barefoot with EDC President/CEO Sandy Davis and her number two Sherri Steele.

But the email goes further by speaking of various conversations, either by phone or in person, which occurred over a two week period. The only record of these conversations is Carotti’s memory. He states in his five page tale the conversations began on December 5th. But Carotti only began writing his email from memory of those conversations (to the best of his recollection) on December 14th.

It is this email that attempts to make a recording of the Gardner/Davis meeting sound potentially sinister.

This is the same email of which Davis told media after it was leaked, “A lot of it is fabricated.”

With the email playing such a large part in the story, I asked a prominent (and in my opinion brilliant) local attorney to provide me with his analysis of the five page missive.

The following quotes are from that analysis:

 “A question that jumps out at me is – he (Carotti) starts keeping a Watergate-styled narrative on his computer on Dec 14, as a result of events that started December 5, because “memory fades over time.” We’re talking about nine days!  What kind of nonsense is that?”

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Davis Calls Carotti Email Fabricated

December 21, 2018 9:31 AM
Davis Calls Carotti Email Fabricated

Sandy Davis, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation and primary source for information contained in an email county attorney Arrigo Carotti sent to council members Wednesday night, an email I reported on yesterday, was quoted in a story on the MyHorryNews.com website yesterday as saying about the email, “A lot of it was fabricated.”

Davis also told reporter Charles Perry that the narrative about extortion is false and that a tape recording of a meeting she had with Johnny Gardner reflects that fact.

Davis’ “on the record” comments to Perry totally undercut what Carotti, apparently in association with county administrator Chris Eldridge, was trying to portray in his email.

It now appears that Carotti’s missive was not created so much to inform council members of any facts, but rather to be leaked to a sympathetic media outlet in Columbia for a sensationalized story that would get the words “Johnny Gardner”and “extortion” into public view on the same day Gardner was being sworn in as the new Horry County Council Chairman..

Carotti’s email was sent to council members late Wednesday afternoon. The story appeared Thursday morning including the complete email.

How did this happen if the intent was not to immediately leak the email, headed by the words “Attorney Client Privilege” to give it the appearance of legitimacy?

The audio recording of the Gardner meeting also brings interesting questions to this issue. Eldridge was aware of the recording in early December. An email from EDC board chairman Neyle Wilson to Eldridge dated December 7, 2018 suggested to Eldridge that he “listen to the tape recording first and then decide whether you need to go any further.”

A follow up email from Wilson to Eldridge on December 12, 2018 stated, “Good morning Chris. I have not heard back from you on the below offer to listen to the recording. Please let me know if you accept this offer and if so, give me some dates and times that you can come to the EDC office.”

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Response to Carotti Email to Council Members

December 20, 2018 11:09 AM
Response to Carotti Email to Council Members

 I received many calls this morning about an article that appeared on the FitsNews.com website today. The article included a reproduction of a five-page email county attorney Arrigo Carotti sent to the 12 current members of county council and county administrator Chris Eldridge last night.

It did not take long for the email to be leaked to FitsNews last night, almost as if it was planned.

In response to the media article and the information Council Members received from Carotti, I sent an email containing the following message to council members, Carotti, Eldridge and Donald Smith:

Council Members,

I was surprised to be told this morning that an article today in FitsNews included reproduction of a five page email from Arrigo Carotti to Chris Eldridge and the current 12 members of county council in which my name was included in events that never happened.

Carotti said in his concluding sentence that the email was written to the best of his recollection.

Let’s expand on that, it included statements that could be interpreted as pointing to possible criminal acts. These statements were made, to the best of Carotti’s recollection, about a conversation he had with Sandy Davis about a conversation she supposedly had with Luke Barefoot, presumably to the best of her recollection.

This is hearsay at its worst!

Now let’s get to the crux of the matter.

In his email, Carotti says Davis told him that Barefoot told her, “that Paul Gable was getting ready to print an article against the EDC pointing out her lack of education specifically, and that she could head that off, and any similar blogs in the future,  by retaining Donald Smith to do the EDC’s public relations.”

The problem with that statement is I never talked to Luke Barefoot, or anyone else, about doing an article about Sandy Davis’ education. I never had in my mind at any time doing such an article. I have certainly written many articles criticizing the EDC and Partners before it about the organization’s many missteps in including businesses such as AvCraft and Project Blue, to name two, in its economic development efforts.

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Changing Focus on the County Budget Process

December 10, 2018 9:21 AM
Changing Focus on the County Budget Process

Horry County began its budget process for Fiscal Year 2020 with its fall planning retreat November 28th.

This was the beginning of what could prove to be a very interesting budget year.

Incoming council chairman Johnny Gardner pledged on the campaign trail, “Public Safety Priority One Day One” as his approach to the county budget process.

County staff heard a portion of that message. The early budget outline includes an additional approximately eight million dollars for public safety. That addition is based on what staff believes can be used from excess hospitality fee revenues after Ride I bonds are paid off early in 2019.

However, despite a county council resolution to use approximately $18 million from those revenues toward public safety, infrastructure and areas like recreation, staff has held firm to the $8 million it proposed last July.

Additionally, council directed staff to prepare an ordinance amending current county code pertaining to the funds received from what is known as the 1.5% portion of hospitality fee revenue that currently goes to pay off the Ride I bonds. Currently all of that revenue is deposited in a special road fund per county code.

To date, staff has not presented an ordinance amendment to change that designation to include public safety, infrastructure, recreation and the like.

This avoidance of acting on a resolution designating the will of council can only be attributed to at least certain members of county senior staff continuing to desire that all of the Ride I 1.5% money go to I-73, which was initially proposed to council.

Therein lies the basic contradiction in the county budget process – council directs, but staff does what it wants to.

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Flood Relief Monday Benefits Mike Roberts Family

November 18, 2018 6:44 AM
Flood Relief Monday Benefits Mike Roberts Family

Flood Relief Monday at The Warehouse in Conway, November 19th from 11 a.m. til 7 p.m., will benefit the family of Conway native Mike Roberts this week.

The event will be the second in a series of Flood Relief Monday events at The Warehouse established to help local citizens recover from uninsured damage from the recent Hurricane Florence flooding in the county.

Roberts and his family suffered approximately $150,000 in uninsured damages when the flooding from Hurricane Florence brought three feet of water into his riverfront home in Conway.

The family was able to save some possessions from the flooding but the home suffered damage to walls, floors and other areas and furnishings from the floodwaters. With the help of his neighbors and friends, Roberts has begun the lengthy process of tearing out sheetrock and other damaged structural elements and hauling the resulting waste away.

The family plans to restore the home and continue living in their Waccamaw Drive location.

Roberts is a lifelong Conway small business owner and has also been a candidate for political office in Horry County Council District 7. Known as being a spiritual individual, dedicated family man, strong supporter of his local community and ‘Man of his Word’, Roberts has been quick to help others in need through the years.

Monday’s event provides an opportunity for his friends and community to give back to Roberts in his time of need.

Spaghetti plates (eat in or take out) will be sold for $7 from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. with all proceeds from the sales being donated to the benefiting family. In addition, from 5 p.m. til 7 p.m. each Monday, diners will be treated to donated live entertainment with local politicians donating their services as celebrity servers with all of their tips being donated to the benefiting family. Citizens can also make direct contributions to the cause. Corporate sponsors pay $100 each week for their sponsorship with all proceeds going to the family.

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Have Your Vote Counted November 6th

October 28, 2018 8:12 AM
Have Your Vote Counted November 6th

A little over a week remains until the November 6th general election and several thousand absentee ballots have already been cast in Horry County.

Horry County voters began a movement of change in the June Republican primaries for Horry County Council Chairman and S.C. House District 104 by nominating Johnny Gardner and William Bailey respectively.

The same happened in a special July Republican primary for Horry County School Board Chairman with businessman Ken Richardson coming out on top.

All three were successful because they connected with average citizens.

Throughout his campaign Gardner spoke of putting “Public Safety Priority One Day One” and charging fees on new development to help pay for the impact it causes on county goods and services, both issues that resonated with the general populace.

Gardner will look to fully staff all categories of first responders so that citizens will have the protection of persons and property that they expect. This has been an area ignored by county government for too long.

Bailey promised to stop tax hikes and reduce government spending at the state level, end corruption and demand transparency in government and give first responders the tools they need to protect our homes and families.

One of Bailey’s goals will be to bring more tax dollars generated in Horry County back to the residents. Horry County has been a donor county to other areas of the state for years and our current legislative delegation has done little to change the situation.

Richardson described his “passion for education” and his intention to manage the school budget to avoid tax increases.

Richardson will look to change the governance policy of the school district so that the elected Board of Education sets policy with the appointed staff carrying out the board’s policies rather than determining their own.

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Horry County’s Political Schism

July 22, 2018 9:22 AM
Horry County’s Political Schism

One glance at the agenda for Tuesday’s upcoming special meeting and workshop of Horry County Council demonstrates the political schism that exists in local politics.

Council will consider two resolutions that propose advisory referendums on the upcoming November 2018 general election ballot to raise countywide property taxes by 10 mils to fund police, EMS, Sheriff and E911service improvements throughout the county and one to raise property taxes by an additional 9.5 mils in the unincorporated areas of the county to fund fire improvements.

The entire discussion of these two referendums is nothing more than a knee jerk reaction to the defeat of incumbent council chairman Mark Lazarus by Johnny Gardner in the June 2018 Republican Primary for the nomination for council chairman.

One of the reasons Gardner won the nomination was his motto of “First Responders First” and his promise to take care of the additional needs of public safety departments in upcoming county budgets. It must be noted, Gardner never proposed tax increases to fund additional personnel and pay raises for first responders. Rather, he proposed prioritizing the needs of public safety during the budget process with current revenues and funds.

Over the last five years, Lazarus and council have basically ignored the increasing needs of public safety. After the voters made themselves heard by voting Lazarus out in June, it is all of a sudden a council priority necessitating a special meeting.

Being advisory rather than binding referendums, the results will mean nothing. The resolutions were first proposed by council member Tyler Servant at the June 19, 2018 regular meeting of council.

Servant said he was a strong fiscal conservative Republican who opposed tax increases, but proposed allowing the voters to make the decision. A true, fiscal conservative would first look to current revenues and funds to meet these needs and consider tax increases only after every other option has been considered and discarded.

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Richardson Rolls To GOP Nomination

July 18, 2018 7:16 AM
Richardson Rolls To GOP Nomination

Ken Richardson was the heavy favorite of voters Tuesday as he captured 71 percent of the vote in the Republican primary special election for Horry County School Board Chairman.

Incumbent school board member Janice Morreale gathered 20 percent of the vote to finish a distant second with former Patricia Milley completing the field at 9 percent.

Richardson will face political newcomer Democrat Heather Johnson in the November general election.

Richardson’s campaign centered on safety in the schools, transparency of board decisions and strict oversight of the school district budget.

The Richardson victory continues a recent trend of incumbents with serious opposition in the primaries falling by the wayside.

Last month challenger Johnny Gardner bested incumbent Mark Lazarus for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council Chairman and William Bailey defeated incumbent Greg Duckworth for the GOP nomination for  SC House District 104. The Richardson victory completed the Trifecta Tuesday night.

What is particularly interesting is all three incumbents had significant help from other incumbents during the primary campaigns.

Lazarus had the endorsement of at least 10 of his 11 fellow county council members as well as endorsements from the coastal mayors and members of the county legislative delegation. State legislators Heather Ammons Crawford and Russell Fry ran the Lazarus campaign.

Duckworth had the active support of fellow legislators Alan Clemmons, Greg Hembree, Fry and Ammons Crawford, as well as North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley, contacting voters to push Duckworth reelection.

Morreale, the current school board member for District 5, had a group of her fellow school board incumbents actively contacting voters to push her candidacy.

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County Council’s Phony Tax Referendum

July 10, 2018 1:32 PM
County Council’s Phony Tax Referendum

Horry County Council is expected to have a discussion next week about placing an advisory referendum on the November 2018 general election ballot regarding tax increases for public safety.

The issue was proposed by council member Tyler Servant at last month’s council meeting. Acknowledging the main topic of the primary election which cost council chairman Mark Lazarus nomination to another term in office, Servant said he was opposed to raising taxes but believed the voters should have a say on whether they wanted to pay higher taxes to increase public safety services in the county.

Council members Dennis DiSabato and Cam Crawford jumped on the bandwagon, acknowledging a need for more public safety personnel and facilities in the county but saying the voters should make the decision.

The discussion will be a waste of time as an advisory referendum will not solve the problem of funding for public safety needs. Regardless of how the referendum is worded and what percentage of the vote it may receive, an advisory binds the council to no action and, furthermore, does not provide permission from voters to raise taxes above the limits of Act 388.

The proposal for a discussion and resolution vote to place the advisory referendum on the ballot appears to be an attempt to divert the discussion from various alternatives for public safety funding to a possible tax increase.

Republican chairman nominee Johnny Gardner, who defeated Lazarus in the June primary voting, never mentioned raising taxes while he campaigned on increasing public safety personnel numbers and pay throughout the county.

Gardner said the current 20 ½ minutes average elapsed time it takes from when a 911 call is answered until a first responder arrives on the scene is unacceptable. Gardner pledged to make public safety funding priority one in the budget process.

At times, when extra sources of tax dollars become available, public safety staffing is never on the radar of most council members and county staff.

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