Post Tagged with: "Mark Lazarus"

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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Team Horry Self Imploding as Primary Voting Nears

June 2, 2018 5:55 AM
Team Horry Self Imploding as Primary Voting Nears

(Above picture represents Team Horry campaigns teetering)

Team Horry, the self-styled moniker by which a few of the Horry County Council members up for reelection this year like refer to themselves, appears in complete disarray a little over one week before primary voting.

It started as a plan for council members to appear as a group on opening day to file candidate papers together followed by a press conference of mutual support and praise for the ‘great’ job they are doing.

That plan never quite came together and it started a trend of events never quite coming off as planned throughout this primary season.

A seemingly insurmountable obstacle for team togetherness occurred several days ago when Horry County Council Vice Chairman Bill Howard went toe-to-toe with Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune over plans the city has for food trucks during the summer tourist season.

Howard, a local restaurateur in real life, lectured the mayor that he believes the food trucks will negatively impact business at his restaurants.

The result of the confrontation was the following post by Bethune on Facebook:

“I am human and far from perfect. I try to communicate with others in a way that makes them feel respected and safe. Today I was truly disheartened by the disrespectful tone and threat that was issued to me by the vice chair of our County Council. He represents EVERYONE in this County and as an elected official should practice civil communication in all matters. May I never think so highly of myself that I try to make others feel low. Here’s an idea: we all need to show mutual respect to each other in order to work together for the greater good of those we serve.”

Howard represents Horry County Council District 2, which includes the City of Myrtle Beach north end beginning at 38th Avenue North. This area happens to include the core of voters who catapulted Bethune to election as mayor last November.

It is also the home district of county council chairman Mark Lazarus.

As Shakespeare would say – “Therein lies the rub.”

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Meet Mark Then and Now

May 28, 2018 3:45 AM
Meet Mark Then and Now

The Mark Lazarus Campaign for Chairman of Horry County Council sent its first mailer to voters over the weekend.

I was happy to see a quote from me in a 2013 article in Grand Strand Daily appeared prominently in the mailer. The quote was complimentary of Lazarus’ first months as chairman.

I’m not sure what the reasoning behind using the quote was or who in the campaign made the decision to use it, but if it was his consultants’ idea, he needs to get new ones.

The quote, rather than discrediting what I have written recently about Lazarus, adds credibility to what I have always told politicians – ‘When I think you’re doing a good job, I will be happy to compliment you. When I think you’re doing a bad job, I won’t hesitate to criticize you.’

Over the last three years, I have been highly critical of Lazarus because I believe he has not been doing a good job as chairman.

When running for reelection in 2014, Lazarus told voters he would “oppose new taxes.” Shortly after successfully winning reelection, Lazarus led council into passing the largest single property tax increase in Horry County history. In addition, council increased road maintenance fees by 67%.

More recently, Lazarus led county council into extending the county wide hospitality tax for an indefinite period in the future despite having no specific plans as to what it would be used for.

Why? Because in Lazarus’ words, if it wasn’t extended, it would be lost.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe a politician should honor his campaign promises otherwise how are we to believe anything he says?

Such as – County council had to spend $12 million for 3,729 acres of swamp land off of International Drive because it was a great deal for the county. The purchase was discussed quietly in secret before being quickly voted on by council.

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Chinese Trial Raises Questions About Local Leadership

May 24, 2018 3:19 PM
Chinese Trial Raises Questions About Local Leadership

A criminal trial in China added a clarifying chapter to the saga of Chinese investments in the Grand Strand area and the naivete of local officials who touted them here.

By 2014, the golf tourism business was in serious decline. Owners of golf courses, many still paying off mortgages, were stuck with assets on their books far exceeding their actual market value. Many were quietly trying to sell the courses with little success.

Jane Zheng was a native Chinese working as a realtor with a local company. Her niche market was other Chinese nationals with seemingly excess cash to invest in U.S. properties. At the time, the Chinese economy was growing at such a rate that many Chinese businesses and individuals had considerable excess cash to invest.

Zheng connected with Dan Liu, reportedly a managing partner in Yiqian Funding, a peer to peer lending company in China that received money from Chinese investors that it lent to business or other entrepreneurs or invested it. Investors and the company supposedly made money on the interest paid on the loans or on the rise in investment assets.

Over an approximate 18 month period, Zheng brokered the sale of 22 local golf courses and other development properties to, supposedly, three Chinese corporations for whom Liu was the exclusive U.S. representative.

While not being licensed to do business in South Carolina, according to records of the S.C. Secretary of State Office, the three corporations supposedly formed at least 16 LLCs locally, each holding some of the various golf course and development property assets. One or more of three Chinese corporations owned 90 percent of each LLC with Liu, as the exclusive agent, acting for the corporations. The LLC’s primarily conducted business locally under the name Founders Group International.

Everything looked great. Local owners got rid of golf course properties that had become toxic to them. Liu was playing the big money man locally and his partner in Yiqian Funding, Xiuli Xue, was bringing potential investors to Horry County to see investment opportunities.

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County Missing Point on First Responders

May 22, 2018 6:06 AM
County Missing Point on First Responders

Sometimes mistakes lead to larger truths. That’s what happened yesterday when I made a mistake in a story about Horry County Council passing a pay increase for all first responders.

County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus called to correct me and rightly so.

As the day wore on and the story and correction became known, I started receiving calls from first responders.

The overriding theme in those phone calls was, “It’s not about the money.”

Sure a pay raise is nice, but it’s probably not going to stop the overall trend of attrition from the ranks of first responders in Horry County.

Because of continuing shortages of officers in police and fire departments, the officers that are employed are being worked to exhaustion.

The Lazarus plan through this year’s budget planning was to give a pay raise to all first responders to stop attrition. Then, when all personnel slots are filled council can talk about increasing numbers in the police and fire departments.

The problems with losing officers are multi-fold. New officers are hired, sent to academies for training, outfitted with uniforms and gear to perform the job, all of which costs money. Training continues after they go to work. The more experience they gain through working on the job, the more valuable they become to the overall efficiency of the force.

If, after three, four or five years officers continue to throw up their hands and say ‘I’m leaving, I’ve had enough of these working conditions,’ the county loses more than just a body. It also loses the experience that officer gained on the job.

Hiring a new officer may fill a position, but the experience is lost and the overall efficiency of the force is less than it would be if retention of experienced officers was high.

Lazarus said through the Spring Budget Retreat, “It’s all about the money.” The theory being an increase in pay would result in an increase in retention of officers.

But, the men and women in the trenches, so to speak, those who are working the overtime and responding to service call after service call, sometimes on shifts of 48 straight hours, say, “It’s not about the money. We need help.”

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