Post Tagged with: "Johnny Vaught"

Treasurer Drops Lawsuit, County Refuses to Disclose Legal Costs

May 18, 2018 9:41 AM
Treasurer Drops Lawsuit, County Refuses to Disclose Legal Costs

Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones yesterday filed to dismiss her lawsuit against Horry County and county administrator Chris Eldridge with prejudice for all events that relate to the lawsuit up through the date of filing, May 17, 2018.

Jones initially filed her lawsuit in November 2017 after county government refused to add one additional administrative assistant position to the current year budget for the Treasurer’s Office. Jones said the amount of additional funds the position would have required was approximately $43,000 including salary and benefit costs.

The dismissal does not affect Jones’ potential “to assert claims relating to future circumstances that may arise,” according to the filing.

Related to Jones’ filing, the county dismissed all claims against Jones related to its Amended Answer and Counterclaims.

According to the stipulation of dismissal, each party is solely responsible for its own costs and attorneys’ fees.

On May 3, 2018, this reporter filed a Freedom  of Information Act request with Horry County Government for “Total amount to date spent by Horry County to McNair Law Firm specifically for legal services pursuant to the Horry County Treasurer/Angie Jones v. Horry County government and Administrator Chris Eldridge.”

Henrietta Golding of the McNair Law Firm was lead attorney for the county’s defense.

On May 17, 2018, the same day the dismissals were filed with the court, Horry County Public Information Specialist Kelly Brosky sent the following response to my request, “Your request for information is not covered under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act and is declined.”

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Horry County Infrastructure Myths and Facts

May 14, 2018 3:23 AM
Horry County Infrastructure Myths and Facts

Infrastructure, especially roads, is on many minds as campaigning moves to the June 12, 2018 primary elections.

Some questionnaires being sent to candidates for various council seats include one or more questions about infrastructure planning.

Four years ago, Mark Lazarus promised voters he would “Fight for greater investment in new and current roads.”

In some of his early campaign statements this time around, Lazarus has pointed to the Ride III initiative and International Drive as personal successes.

This is misleading.

Council has little to do with the Ride projects. A prioritized list is presented from an independent committee to council on which it votes up or down for the entire list. Council may not make any deletions or additions. If council approves the list, and it always does, the citizens vote on a referendum question whether to adopt a one-cent sales tax to fund the Ride program.

As far as International Drive is concerned, if any current member of council deserves credit for keeping the issue moving toward completion it is Johnny Vaught. It was Vaught’s uncle, retired Lt. Gen. James Vaught, who initially addressed the need for International Drive and continued to push for the project from the early 2000’s until his death in September 2013. I can still hear Vaught addressing council several times on the importance of International Drive always ending with “Get it done.”

After Johnny Vaught was elected to council in November 2014, he picked up where his uncle left off in seeing the project to completion next month.

A recent Facebook video on the Lazarus campaign page touts on to greater infrastructure as it pictures the Farrow Parkway interchange with U.S. 17 Bypass.

This is an unfortunate choice of roads to feature as it depicts one of the more outrageous projects the county has undertaken.

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Parking Fees Discussed by City/County Council Members

September 30, 2016 6:28 AM
Parking Fees Discussed by City/County Council Members

The parking fee issue in Myrtle Beach seems to get a little more convoluted each week.

Earlier this week, a group called the Beach Coalition held a meeting at Longbeard’s in Carolina Forest to discuss issues surrounding the parking fees.

Attending the meeting were county council chairman Mark Lazarus and council members Bill Howard, Jimmy Washington and Johnny Vaught. Randal Wallace from Myrtle Beach City Council was also in attendance.

Members of the coalition group are unhappy with the rather cavalier manner in which Myrtle Beach city council treats issues such as parking fees.

With regard to the fee itself, Lazarus said there is going to be a parking fee for county residents when they park in beach access areas.

Additionally, Lazarus said the fee has to be reasonable for everybody and nobody is going to pay $300 (for a parking decal). The $300 figure was thrown out by Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes at a recent forum held with citizens.

Lazarus said the city and county would establish a “steering committee” to address the issue.

Wallace said something had to be done about parking in beach access in the Golden Mile and surrounding areas. He seemed to blame the fee on litter finding its way to the properties of Golden Mile residents.

Wallace said maybe the $10 per day parking fee now being charged to non-city residents wasn’t the best answer to the problem. He said he was sure city council wants to work with county council to address the parking fee issue.

Wallace admitted to the crowd that all parking fees collected in the city go to the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation. For many years, the DRC has accomplished little in the way of redevelopment and virtually none in the city’s historic downtown in the area of City Hall, Five Points and adjacent areas.

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Council Nixes HCSWA – Charleston County Contract

September 2, 2015 5:00 AM
Council Nixes HCSWA – Charleston County Contract

Horry County Council failed to pass second reading of a budget amendment that is required for the HCSWA to take recyclables from Charleston County.

A budget amendment requires an absolute super majority vote of council, nine “Yes” votes, in order to pass.

The amendment received a vote of 7-4. A vote of 9-2 was required to pass second reading. Horry County Council District 3 is without a member pending a special election this fall to replace Marion Foxworth who resigned after the August 18th council meeting to accept the Registrar of Deeds job.

Without a budget amendment approved by county council, the Horry County Solid Waste Authority has no authority to contract with Charleston County to take recyclables from Charleston County.

But, the HCSWA already has signed that contract and has been processing recyclables from Charleston County since late July.

And, it’s not the contract itself that caused four council members to vote against the budget amendment Tuesday night.

Rather, it’s the process, or lack of it, that the HCSWA used to come to an agreement with Charleston County in the first place.

According to past statements by several HCSWA officials, Charleston County first approached the HCSWA in late May 2015 about taking recyclables for processing at the HCSWA material recovery facility on Hwy 90.

At that point, the HCSWA should have informed Horry County Council what was being discussed and the ramifications for the HCSWA budget, which is part of the overall county budget approved by council.

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The New Horry County Transportation Committee

August 31, 2015 5:00 AM
The New Horry County Transportation Committee

The Horry County Transportation Committee held its inaugural meeting Thursday.

Appointed by Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus, after the Airport Advisory Board was discontinued several months ago, the committee members are Gary Loftus, Chairman and Johnny Vaught, Bill Howard and Lazarus.

The committee will provide initial oversight of issues for the full council on airports, Coast RTA and the railroad.

With the railroad sale now completed, R.J. Corman, the new owners, are clearing the track in preparation of fixing the line and bridges so that the portion in North Carolina to the SCDOT bridge across the waterway at Myrtle Beach can be opened for traffic.

Lazarus said Corman wants to open the track as quickly as possible for service to those former users and possibly new economic development opportunities associated with rail freight.

In time, it is possible that special passenger excursions, dinner trains, and the like will be run from Myrtle Beach to Conway, but that is for the future.

The largest undertaking over the next several months will be committee involvement with a comprehensive airport master plan for the county’s four general aviation airports – Myrtle Beach International, Grand Strand in North Myrtle Beach, Conway and Loris.

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No Extortion on International Drive

August 18, 2015 9:09 PM
No Extortion on International Drive

Horry County Council gave a resounding NO to the possibility of giving any money to The Nature Conservancy for extra mitigation on International Drive.

The new request came up during a meeting between Horry County officials and representatives from the Coastal Conservation League and the SC Wildlife Federation.

Essentially what was asked for was the county to pay The Nature Conservancy approximately $1.6 million so that agency could purchase land to be used ostensibly for wildlife preservation.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus ended the meeting after the new demand was made.

Lazarus reported on the International Drive project during the regular council meeting Tuesday night. He said he wasn’t going to give money from the taxpayers of Horry County to a private nonprofit organization so it could buy land.

It is probably not something that could legally be done either. International Drive is one of the projects paid for by the one cent local option sales tax (Ride II).

Ride II was approved by referendum of county voters in 2006. At that time, each project with the anticipated expenses associated with it was listed in the referendum. The county has already paid for the mitigation credits required by the US Army Corps of Engineers and SCDHEC for the project.

To expend extra dollars just to please conservation groups for land that is neither associated with the project nor required for mitigation certainly seems to be in conflict with state law on capital projects sales tax.

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Horry County Council Budget Resolutions

July 7, 2015 6:30 AM
Horry County Council Budget Resolutions

Horry County Council will consider two resolutions at its meeting tonight to complete this fiscal year’s budget process.

The resolutions will be to approve funding agreements with the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation for two years and with Coast RTA for one year.

These votes will be the final acts of contempt toward county taxpayers in a budget year that brings the largest property tax increase in a generation.

Led by the Republican ‘Gang of Five’ (Mark Lazarus, Al Allen, Johnny Vaught, Gary Loftus and Bill Howard), Horry County Council chose to raise property taxes by 7.2 mils ($13.5 million) without even considering during budget considerations whether funding should be cut for the MBREDC and Coast RTA.

Of course, MBREDC and Coast RTA funding weren’t the only possible savings in a $130 million general fund budget that could have been looked at.

It was just easier for the Republican ‘Gang of Five’ to raise taxes than to go through the details of the budget.

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Horry County Council Budget Failures

June 23, 2015 5:00 AM
Horry County Council Budget Failures

The latest development at MBREDC indicates how casually Horry County Council approached raising taxes this year.

Jim Moore, President and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation, resigned from that agency Monday.

Moore came to MBREDC only six months ago after the three plus year dismal reign of Brad Lofton. During the four year period represented by these two, MBREDC allegedly reorganized itself with a new approach to attracting jobs to Horry County.

Neither Moore nor Lofton was any more successful in economic development recruitment than the former iteration of MBREDC or Partners Economic Development Corporation before it.

The difference is the current four year MBREDC 2.0 has been receiving serious funding from Horry County Council, between $1.3 million to $1.8 million per year of taxpayer dollars, with little to nothing to show for it.

Think of AvCraft, Project Blue and PTR Industries as the poster children of MBREDC efforts.

Over the past five county budget cycles, MBREDC has received at least $7.5 million from Horry County Council to fund its few employees and other operational costs.

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Horry County Council Tax Explosion

June 17, 2015 7:00 AM
Horry County Council Tax Explosion

It is now official, the tax and spend Republicans on Horry County Council passed the largest tax increase in a generation last night.

Nothing changed from the budget that passed at second reading. There will be a countywide tax increase of 7.2 mils more for the general fund. The countywide road fee increased from $30 to $50 per vehicle and county building permit fees increased.

The Republican “Gang of Five” who voted to increase taxes consists of chairman Mark Lazarus, and council members Al Allen, Johnny Vaught, Bill Howard and Gary Loftus. Democrat James Frazier made the sixth vote in the 6-5 decision.

Of the six members who voted for it, five (all but Loftus) were elected to their current terms in November 2014, so it will be over three years before they have to face the voters for reelection. There is speculation Loftus may not be planning to run again so his term ending next year may not matter in having to answer for being a tax and spender.

Despite campaign pledges to “oppose new taxes”, “keep property taxes low”, “listen to the taxpayers” and support TEA Party goals, Lazarus, Vaught, Howard and Allen (respectively) make the term conservative Republican virtually extinct in Horry County and, in their particular cases, an oxymoron.

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Towering Political Egos

June 14, 2015 5:10 AM
Towering Political Egos

Towering political egos are the bane of sensible political discussion and of the ability of a politician to take a reflective look at him or herself.

It doesn’t take long for the average politician to believe that anyone criticizing them is wrong by definition and that any criticism of them is a mean-spirited personal attack.

Too often this attitude is the result of an inner insecurity that is masked by a false confidence and arrogance.

No, this isn’t meant to be a column on the psychology of politicians. The above is merely an expression of my conclusions over many years of observing the political scene, criticizing many statements, decisions and votes and watching the reactions of those politicians involved.

Word has reached me that I bruised a few egos again this week.

Evidently I hurt some feelings when I called Cam Crawford the stealth candidate for dodging candidate forums in the current Horry County Council District 6 Republican special primary campaign.

I have even been told Crawford’s wife, Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford, was making statements about being mad not only at me, but also at political consultant Donald Smith.

Mad at me for writing that Cam should not be a political candidate if he was unwilling to answer questions from the public and engage voters and the other candidates and mad at Smith for not stopping me from writing those statements.

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