By Paul Gable
Sandy Davis, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation and primary source for information contained in an email county attorney Arrigo Carotti sent to council members Wednesday night, an email I reported on yesterday, was quoted in a story on the MyHorryNews.com website yesterday as saying about the email, “A lot of it was fabricated.”
Davis also told reporter Charles Perry that the narrative about extortion is false and that a tape recording of a meeting she had with Johnny Gardner reflects that fact.
Davis’ “on the record” comments to Perry totally undercut what Carotti, apparently in association with county administrator Chris Eldridge, was trying to portray in his email.
It now appears that Carotti’s missive was not created so much to inform council members of any facts, but rather to be leaked to a sympathetic media outlet in Columbia for a sensationalized story that would get the words “Johnny Gardner”and “extortion” into public view on the same day Gardner was being sworn in as the new Horry County Council Chairman..
Carotti’s email was sent to council members late Wednesday afternoon. The story appeared Thursday morning including the complete email.
How did this happen if the intent was not to immediately leak the email, headed by the words “Attorney Client Privilege” to give it the appearance of legitimacy?
The audio recording of the Gardner meeting also brings interesting questions to this issue. Eldridge was aware of the recording in early December. An email from EDC board chairman Neyle Wilson to Eldridge dated December 7, 2018 suggested to Eldridge that he “listen to the tape recording first and then decide whether you need to go any further.”
A follow up email from Wilson to Eldridge on December 12, 2018 stated, “Good morning Chris. I have not heard back from you on the below offer to listen to the recording. Please let me know if you accept this offer and if so, give me some dates and times that you can come to the EDC office.”
Eldridge responded to Wilson’s second email one hour later on December 12th. In his email, Eldridge refers to a previous conversation Davis had with Eldridge and Carotti about a conversation Davis had with Luke Barefoot. Eldridge claims that some of the conversation points Davis shared “could be viewed as unethical and possibly illegal,”
Here Eldridge is referring to comments made by Barefoot, not Gardner. It must be pointed out here that several conversations are referred to in the Carotti email, all of which he is reporting on with second or third hand knowledge. Only one, the one that was tape recorded, involved Gardner and people who have heard that tape stated to various media that nothing on the tape incriminates Gardner in anything.
Later in his December 12th email response, Eldridge takes on a threatening tone saying, “An unwillingness to share the taped recording of the conversation raises even more concerns.”
Eldridge is now talking about the recording of the meeting Gardner and Barefoot had with Davis and Sherri Steele of the EDC. Twice previously Eldridge was given the opportunity to listen to the recording of that meeting, a fact he obviously ignored, while suggesting an unwillingness on the part of Davis to have Eldridge listen to the recording.
Eldridge knew of the existence of the tape at least as early as December 7th but couldn’t be bothered to listen to it, actually a four minute segment of it, until December 19th while suggesting in the interim that facts were being hidden from him. It appears Eldridge lives in the world of “alternative facts.”
Then, after listening to a tape recording with apparently no incriminating statements, according to Davis and others who have heard the recording, Carotti goes back to the county building to finish his email and send it out to council members.
After the email and accompanying story appear in media, Davis claimed much of the email was “fabricated.”
Davis’ statement is supported by Donald Godwin who was included in the email about an alleged conversation between Godwin and Davis that I reported on yesterday.
Last evening I had the opportunity to meet with Godwin at a social function. Godwin told me the conversation related by Carotti in his email “never happened” and Godwin had no idea why the fictitious story about him was included in Carotti’s email.
Now we have two sources, Davis and Godwin, who say fabricated stories about alleged conversations they had were included in Carotti’s email.
Yet, this fabricated email was leaked to the media and used by Eldridge to call SLED to initiate an investigation of what can only be deemed as extremely questionable to totally fabricated facts.
Horry County has a long history of using the criminal justice system to settle political scores. In this case, it appears Eldridge and Carotti were complicit in a scheme to get a story using fabricated information into the media in an attempt to smear Gardner and call for an investigation by SLED.
Yesterday I concluded my story with the statement it was time for county council to get Eldridge and Carotti under control. I now believe council should fire them.
Read the entire Carotti email: Attorney-Client-Privileged (1)