By Paul Gable
An apparently out of control city administrator in Conway may be starting a war over political signs that he cannot win.
According to a story in the Horry Independent last week, Conway city employees collected “more than 400 political signs” that were allegedly placed in locations they are not allowed.
Emrick reportedly told Conway City Council members last week he is tired of the great expense to the city of picking up political signs placed in the wrong place. What Emrick is apparently talking about here is signs placed in public rights of way.
The alleged illegally placed signs have been removed and placed in a city warehouse rather than being destroyed, according to the story.
However, Emrick told city council members he is ready to impose fines of up to $1,100 per sign, supposedly allowed by city ordinance, when someone comes to pick up the signs from the warehouse, according to the story.
Emrick also has a plan to bill the candidates whose signs have been picked up, according to the story.
As a point of reference, Horry County Government employees also pick up political signs that are placed in public rights of way. Those signs are disposed of in a county dumpster and candidates are free to remove their signs from the dumpster if they choose.
What Emrick proposed to city council is government overreach at an extreme level. One could call it a violation of the 14th Amendment protections of the U.S. Constitution with respect to due process.
There is no way it costs the City of Conway $1,100 to pick up each political sign. I would submit the cost to the city is not even one percent of that amount. Therefore, the proposed fine is excessive to the point of being ridiculous.
I would expect the attempt to collect fines or send out bills will result in the city finding itself mired in lawsuits.
Simply put, that is not good government.
According to sources speaking to Grand Strand Daily, Emrick has already destroyed relationships between the city and members of Conway’s business community with his heavy-handed approach to administering city codes.
According to those sources, Mayor Barbara Blaine Bellamy and senior council members William Goldfinch, Alex Hyman and Larry White have repeatedly received complaints from members of the public and the business community about Emrick’s heavy-handed approach to running the city the way he decides rather than from council direction.
Now, it would appear he is trying to destroy relationships between the city and county, state and federal governments through this extreme treatment of candidates for offices in those governmental agencies.
During the Conway city election last fall, allegedly misplaced signs of council candidates were also picked up by city employees. How many fines and what amounts were issued to those candidates? The public has a right to know!
Emrick would do well to remember it was exactly this type of authoritarian, heavy-handed approach to government administration that got Chris Eldridge fired by Horry County Government three years ago.
Conway City Council members can neither justify a $1,100 per sign fine nor repair the damage such action will cause with elected officials in the county, state and federal governments they should be seeking to develop harmonious relationships with.
No one government official should be allowed to cause such potential damage.