By Paul Gable
The nightmare that has been the reign of county administrator Chris Eldridge ended Tuesday night when county council approved a termination package to end Eldridge’s employment.
The specific details of Eldridge’s package were not announced. However, it is believed to be in the neighborhood of one year salary, benefits and allowances or approximately $300,000 cost to the county.
And it is worth every penny to get rid of a poisonous influence at the top of county government who was unilaterally despised by county employees; who often confused his role as one of being in the middle of making policy rather than carrying out the decisions of others and who quite unsuccessfully attempted to disgrace current council chairman Johnny Gardner even before Gardner took office.
The vote was 9-2 to end Eldridge’s tenure, with council members Bill Howard and Tyler Servant the odd men out. Gardner did not vote as he participated in the negotiations of the package with Eldridge’s attorney.
Howard’s no vote was for reasons apparently only he can understand. Servant tried to play his ‘guardian of the people’s money’ schtick because of the size of the settlement, never considering how much more it would have cost the county in poor management and personnel decisions to keep Eldridge in place.
Immediately prior to the vote on Eldridge, council voted to defer cancellation of a Financial Participation Agreement with SCDOT for funding of I-73 while “aggressively pursuing” defense of the lawsuit recently brought against the county by Myrtle Beach over hospitality fee collections.
Among other pleadings in the lawsuit, the city requested a permanent injunctions against the county’s ability to collect a countywide 1.5% hospitality fee for its special road fund. A portion of that fund was to be used to fund the agreement with SCDOT.
In addition to the lawsuit, three cities, Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach and North Myrtle Beach have moved on to pass ordinances capturing all hospitality and accommodations fees collected within their corporate limits.
That council continues to punt on making a decision to cancel the financial agreement while having no idea where money for funding the agreement will come from is disturbing and financially irresponsible to the citizens of Horry County.