Post Tagged with: "Mark Lazarus"

Myrtle Beach Cabal v. McBride in District 107 Primary Voting Today

August 17, 2020 4:21 AM
Myrtle Beach Cabal v. McBride in District 107 Primary Voting Today

Voters in House District 107 will again go to the polls today to determine who will be the new Republican nominee for the South Carolina House of Representatives seat from that district.

The special primary was made necessary when former representative Alan Clemmons resigned from his House seat five weeks after being nominated for his tenth term in office.

Clemmons had been looking for another government job for the past two years with no luck so he took the default position of raising campaign donations and running for nomination for his tenth term. It has been obvious that he would bolt from that seat when prospects of a much higher paying job was potentially in the offing. When he learned the Master in Equities judge position would be available next July, he resigned from the House to secure the one year lapse, required by state law, from service in the General Assembly to appointment to a judgeship.

There is one way Clemmons can prove me wrong with my above conclusion. I challenge Clemmons  to come out publicly with a statement that his affidavit to the S. C. Election Commission was truthful about resigning his seat in the House and his nomination to another term for non-political reasons, as stated in the affidavit, and that under no circumstances will he seek nor accept the position of Horry County Master in Equity, which would be a political appointment.

As soon as he decided to resign, Clemmons, in his own words, called his opponent in the June regular primary, Case Brittain, to notify Brittain of his decision and start the process that would make Brittain the choice of the Myrtle Beach cabal in the special primary.

Brittain was reportedly advised by Clemmons and Mark Lazarus to hire the cabal’s go to political consultant Walter Whetsell and his Starboard Communications for the special primary.

The choice tomorrow is between the cabal’s candidate, Brittain, and former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride.

Clemmons did the bidding of the cabal, securing passage of the enabling legislation for the Tourism Development Fee in 2009 and amending the original legislation to eliminate the ten-year sunset provision so the fee could be continued ad infinitum.

Clemmons was also a major voice pushing I-73 at the state level but was wholly unsuccessful in obtaining any construction grants from the state for the road.

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Election Runoff Presents Important Decision for Voters in Council District 9

June 19, 2020 4:14 PM
Election Runoff Presents Important Decision for Voters in Council District 9

Voters in District 9 will go to the polls Tuesday to decide who will represent them for the next four years on county council.

The runoff election is between Terry Fowler and Mark Causey.

Fowler is a retired Horry County police officer while Causey is a real estate broker.

That difference in jobs caused some of the citizens in the district to link Causey to the real estate development interests in the county.

However, I am not sure that distinction is correct in this race.

Fowler openly supported former council chairman Mark Lazarus against current council chairman Johnny Gardner in the 2018 council chairman race. No one on council was more associated with the development industry than Lazarus.

If employment is to be a determining factor in who is tied to developers, consider there are Fowler family employment connections to the Shep Guyton Law Firm, a firm intimately connected to the development industry in the county.

Shep Guyton was fined by the South Carolina Ethics Commission for his part in the $325,000 disbursal of campaign contributions to politicians at the local and state level who were involved in the process that resulted in the imposition of the Myrtle Beach Chamber’s Tourism Development Fee.

If one looks on the surface at associations that could be tied to the development industry in Horry County, Fowler’s are certainly more suspect than Causey’s.

The Fraternal Order of Police branch in the county endorsed a number of candidates in county elections for this primary cycle. Fowler, a former police officer, was not one of them. I expect this was because of Fowler’s support of Lazarus in 2018. Gardner was endorsed by the FOP and was certainly more supportive than Lazarus for changes that needed to happen with respect to pay and additional officers for the department.

The development industry has had a good election cycle this year. It was successful in getting Cam Crawford, Dennis Disabato and Gary Loftus reelected in the recent primaries. Republican primaries decide who will take office because of the lack of Democratic candidates in the November general election.

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Clemmons, Crawford, Crawford, Parker You Got Some ‘Splaining to do

April 28, 2020 6:44 AM
Clemmons, Crawford, Crawford, Parker You Got Some ‘Splaining to do

Campaign funds and the lax laws controlling them allow politicians the ability to do almost anything they want with donations they receive.

But, the donors and the voters have a right to know exactly what is being done with campaign funds just as they do with public money. How, why and to whom is it paid? What goal toward being elected or reelected is achieved by its expenditure?

This is why nearly $150,000 over a four year span from Rep. Alan Clemmons’ campaign fund to now Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford (she was only a SC House member for the final $2,250 of that amount) listed as contract and/or campaign services leaves many questions.

Clemmons had no opponent in either a primary or general election in 2008, 2010 and 2012 election cycles. Yet, Crawford was paid an average of $37,500 per year for four years from Clemmons’ campaign account.

The voters deserve to know exactly what work did Clemmons pay Heather Crawford for? Was it all associated with political functions?

Heather Ammons Crawford, her husband and current Horry County District 6 council member Cam Crawford and SC Rep. Russell Fry have a political consulting business called Crescent Communications.

By way of comparison to the Clemmons payments to Heather Crawford, three campaigns run by the firm for former Horry County Council chairman Mark Lazarus provide stark contrasts.

Crescent Communications provided consulting services for three Lazarus campaigns, a special election in 2013 and regular election in 2014 and 2018. In those three campaigns, Lazarus spent a total of approximately $300,000 from his campaign account, all for election purposes. Approximately $41,000 was the total sum paid to Crescent Communications for those three campaign cycles.

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First Anniversary of the Plot to Smear Council Chairman Johnny Gardner

December 20, 2019 3:00 AM
First Anniversary of the Plot to Smear Council Chairman Johnny Gardner

Exactly one year ago today former county administrator Chris Eldridge, former council chairman Mark Lazarus and county attorney Arrigo Carotti went public with a plot to attempt to overturn the will of the voters by smearing incoming county chairman Johnny Gardner on the day of his swearing in.

In the week prior, Carotti had authored a five-page memo, with input from Eldridge and Lazarus, attempting to portray Gardner as being involved in a plot to extort money from the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation.

The memo was sent to council members as ‘Attorney Client Privileged’ in an attempt to try and give some official weight to the narrative and, within 12 hours, leaked to a Columbia media outlet to make the story public. The supposed facts in the memo were entirely fictitious.

As soon as the leaked story was published on the internet, complete with a copy of Carotti’s memo, Eldridge sent the memo to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division requesting an investigation.

Within a one day period, the plotters had linked the name ‘Gardner’ to the word ‘extortion’, spread the story statewide and used the publishing of the story as an excuse to contact SLED.

It was an email from Lazarus to Eldridge that first brought SLED into the conversation.

The problem was the story was complete fiction, But that didn’t stop the plotters. The apparent objective was to get Gardner to step aside from the office he had been elected to so that Lazarus could reclaim it. (At the time, apparently unaware of the provisions for filling a vacancy in a county office, they thought the Governor could make an appointment to fill the void and that appointment would be Lazarus who had been defeated by Gardner at the polls.

Within another 24 hours, the entire plot began to fall apart.

Carotti used alleged statements made by Sandy Davis, President and CEO of the MBREDC to both himself and Eldridge as a major source for his narrative, as well as a recording of a lunch meeting between Gardner, Davis and two others.

When contacted by media for comment about the Carotti memo, Davis was quoted responding about the memo, “A lot of it was fabricated.”

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Questions Surround CCU’s Planned Institute for Principled Development

November 13, 2019 3:21 AM
Questions Surround CCU’s Planned Institute for Principled Development

Documents obtained by Grand Strand Daily raise some questions about recent media reports regarding the planned Institute for Principled Development at Coastal Carolina University.

According to media reports, the institute will be housed at the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration at CCU. Barbara Ritter PhD, Dean of the College of Business Administration, said the institute will be an impartial and credible source for those seeking answers to some of the complex planning and development issues facing the region and it will provide unbiased, data-driven analysis to Horry County’s growth.

Robert Salvino Jr. PhD, professor of economics and director of the Grant Center for Real Estate and Economics at CCU, will reportedly oversee the institute.

The institute is funded almost exclusively by developers, builders, realtors, engineers and associated development industry firms. According to a document obtained by Grand Strand Daily, as of September 2019, the institute had funding commitments of $152,666 for 2019 and $409,500 in three year pledges. The largest contributors are Burroughs and Chapin, DDC Engineers, Clay and Matthew Brittain, Ocean Sands Resort, Palmetto Corporation, Ralph and Tradd Teal and Waccamaw Land and Timber each pledging $30,000 over three years.

According to the media reports, the first step is to hire an executive director for the institute and next to craft an advisory board to address questions surrounding development. The reports state the institute is set to launch in spring 2020.

However, Grand Strand Daily obtained a document that names a five member Board of Advisors elected July 31, 2019 for the “Institute for Responsible Development in the Wall College of Business Administration at Coastal Carolina University.” The name of the institute was reported as Institute for Responsible Development in news articles last week. “Responsible” was changed to “Principled” in a press release from CCU over the weekend.

Members of the Board of Advisors listed in the above named document are Mark Lazarus, Chairman, Drew Flynn and Tradd Teal, Co-Vice Chairmen, Clay Brittain, Secretary and Horry County Council member Gary Loftus, Ad Hoc Member.

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Another Hospitality Fee Filing, Another Email, More County Lunacy

July 2, 2019 1:21 PM
Another Hospitality Fee Filing, Another Email, More County Lunacy

The City of Myrtle Beach filed a supplemental memorandum Monday in support of its lawsuit against Horry County’s continued collection of hospitality fees.

Leading the memorandum is an affidavit by North Myrtle Beach City Manager Michael Mahaney providing evidence of the county’s continued collection of the hospitality fee in the City of North Myrtle Beach after June 21, 2019, and supporting a June 26, 2019 motion by Myrtle Beach for the county to show cause why it was not in contempt of a temporary restraining order issued by Judge Seals on June 21, 2019 prohibiting same.

Included in the filing was an email originated by attorney Henrietta Golding who is representing the county in the lawsuit.

The email appears to have evolved out of the string of emails that were the subject of several media stories yesterday. The email that appears to have started the string was sent by former county council chairman Mark Lazarus to Golding.

In her email, Goldings criticizes the judge and the temporary restraining order the judge issued against the county for having “many errors”; states, “This is solely the fault of Myrtle Beach” and appears to discuss the county’s strategy in moving forward by saying the county will try to get a “supersedeas” and saying “if the county took steps to suspend the ordinance (creating the hospitality fee), then probably create legal issues detrimental to the county.”

Golding’s email was sent to Lazarus, county council members Johnny Vaught, Harold Worley, Tyler Servant and Dennis DiSabato, interim administrator Steve Gosnell, county attorney Arrigo Carotti, North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley, Mahaney and Surfside Beach City Manager Dennis Pieper.

The choice of recipients is confusing as Golding only represents six – the four council members, county administrator and county attorney. Lazarus has no official position with the county since his term ended December 31, 2018. Hatley, Mahaney and Pieper support the position of Myrtle Beach that the county has been illegally collecting the hospitality fees since January 1, 2017 when the original sunset provision of the county hospitality fee ordinance expired.

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Time to End the County’s Hospitality Fee Lunacy

July 1, 2019 11:11 AM
Time to End the County’s Hospitality Fee Lunacy

Events occurring over the last week served to magnify the need for the county and the cities to get past the lunacy that has developed over the county’s efforts to continue collecting a countywide Hospitality Fee that is in all likelihood now illegal.

Myrtle Beach initially filed a lawsuit against the county “for itself and “similarly situated plaintiffs” on March 21, 2019 stating its claims against the county’s continued collection of the hospitality fee and requesting a temporary restraining order on the county’s continued collection of the fee while the case was being litigated.

After District Court Judge Seals issued a temporary restraining order on the county’s continued collection of a 1.5% hospitality fee within the City of Myrtle Beach and “similarly situated plaintiffs”, on June 21, 2019, the cities expected the county to stop collecting the fee within their jurisdictions.

Last Tuesday, the county dashed those expectations by sending out an email announcing it would only stop collecting the fee within Myrtle Beach and would continue to collect it in the other cities in the county as well as the unincorporated areas.

This led to outrage from North Myrtle Beach officials who called the county’s continued collection of the fee within their city “illegal.” In addition, Myrtle Beach filed a new motion requesting the county be required to show cause that it was not in contempt of the judge’s order.

With the angry rhetoric flying, a special meeting of county council was called for June 29, 2019 at which council was expected to vote on a recommendation to suspend collection of the fee within the cities until the lawsuit was settled.

Instead, council convened, immediately went into executive session where, according to sources with knowledge of the discussion, county attorney Arrigo Carotti and attorney Henrietta Golding, representing the county in the case, urged council to “stay the course” and continue collecting the fee in the other cities until ordered not to by the Court. In addition, the attorneys reportedly told council the judge had used the wrong standard of review in making his ruling. Golding filed a request for reconsideration of the ruling and was prepared to take the issue to the S. C. Supreme Court where, she told council, she expected the restraining order would be overturned.

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Horry County Bungled Hospitality Fee Issue

June 28, 2019 7:00 AM
Horry County Bungled Hospitality Fee Issue

Horry County officials look like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight with respect to a Hospitality Fee issue that county government has bungled for at least the past three years.

In a MyHorryNews.com story yesterday, council member Johnny Vaught tried to pass off the latest brouhaha over the continued collection by the county of a 1.5% hospitality fee in every city except Myrtle Beach as a “mistake” because of a misinterpretation of a June 21, 2019 judge’s temporary restraining order.

The order, signed by Judge Seals, suspended collection of the hospitality fee by Horry County in the “City of Myrtle Beach for Itself and a Class of Similarly Situated Plaintiffs,” as the lawsuit is titled.

Additionally, the order denied a request by Horry County that a temporary restraining order be placed against the cities with respect to collection of new accommodations and hospitality taxes the cities respectively passed and are scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2019.

One of the county’s arguments in requesting a TRO against the new city taxes was that they would illegally exceed local hospitality and accommodations tax limits mandated by state law when taken in conjunction with the county hospitality fee.

The city hospitality and accommodations tax ordinances were passed in accordance with entirely separate sections of state law and have nothing to do with the uniform service charge hospitality fee in question, a point I’m not sure county officials entirely understand.

The new city hospitality tax is collected on prepared food and beverages only. The countywide uniform service charge hospitality fee is collected on accommodations, prepared food and beverages, admissions and rental car fees.

On June 25, 2019, the county sent an email to the cities stating it would continue to collect the 1.5% hospitality fee everywhere except within the city limits of Myrtle Beach where it said collection of the fee was temporarily suspended pending final settlement of the lawsuit.

The county’s email immediately caused an outcry from the other cities in the county, led by North Myrtle Beach, which issued a statement saying the county was attempting to continue to “illegally” collect the hospitality fee in the other cities.

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Change Threatens as Administrator Interviews Near

June 24, 2019 3:48 AM
Change Threatens as Administrator Interviews Near

As public interviews loom for candidates for the permanent administrator position for Horry County, I sense a hint of panic in those council members who are pushing Steve Gosnell for administrator because they want to maintain the status quo.

They are the same council members who attempted to circumvent the administrator selection process before it began.

They are the same council members who stumped unsuccessfully to keep former council chairman Mark Lazarus in office.

They are many of the same council members who tried to excuse away the actions of former administrator Chris Eldridge and county attorney Arrigo Carotti when that pair concocted their fictitious story alleging wrongdoing on the part of new chairman Johnny Gardner.

These are members who try to get you to believe that ‘up’ is actually ‘down’, ‘stop’ is actually ‘go’ and ‘orange’ is actually ‘purple’.

Or, put another way, insist building I-73 is necessary while roads that have flooded in three of the last four years are ignored; new developments are okay even though infrastructure and public safety needs are lacking for development the county already has in place and planning future spending of tens of millions of dollars to continue to bury trash in the county is better than looking for reasonable alternatives.

These are the same council members who are afraid of change because it may upset their own personal, selfish agendas.

In the last few days they have found several shills to do their bidding on social media with one media outlet publishing an article claiming transparency in the selection process is a bad thing and a person in love with social media videos flip flopping positions on Gosnell based on false information.

All of the above is to be expected. Politics in Horry County is generally a full contact sport. If you’re not willing to figuratively shed a little blood, don’t get in the arena.

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How Far Will the Deep Six Go to Block Change With a New Administrator?

May 31, 2019 8:37 AM
How Far Will the Deep Six Go to Block Change With a New Administrator?

The first phase in finding a replacement for former county administrator Chris Eldridge will be completed next week as applications from candidates must be in by June 5, 2019.

The Deep Six, council members Harold Worley, Tyler Servant, Dennis DiSabato, Gary Loftus, Cam Crawford and Bill Howard, assisted by council member Johnny Vaught, already tried to hijack this process once.

In behind the scenes maneuvering, this group attempted to promote the hiring of interim administrator Steve Gosnell to the administrator job without consideration of any other candidates. When the plot was exposed, several of the plotters backed away quickly.

Voters in the county opted for change in the way the county does business when they elected council chairman Johnny Gardner to replace Mark Lazarus last year.

Since Gardner took office, the Deep Six have attempted to obstruct change to the point of initially blocking the firing of Eldridge after he and county attorney Arrigo Carotti were discredited in their attempt to smear Gardner. That little episode cost county taxpayers approximately $300,000, the cost of paying off Eldridge to get rid of him.

But, that cost will be minimal compared to the cost to taxpayers of blocking a new vision to county administration.

Steve Gosnell has been a good engineer for the county. He has approximately two years to go before hitting the 28 year mark for full retirement. He is not the person to look to for changes in the way county government is run.

Gosnell has been head of the county’s Infrastructure and Regulation Division and an assistant administrator for a number of years, once before serving as interim administrator. He has built a working relationship with other members of senior staff and, as such, is not expected to look at what changes are necessary to make county government more effective, more responsive to the needs of citizens and more transparent.

County government does not need, in the administrator position, a two year placeholder looking forward to retirement while keeping many of the failed Eldridge policies and senior staff in place.

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