By Paul Gable
It seems that Horry County Administrator Chris Eldridge is taking a page out of the “Nero” playbook as he ignores oversight of county government while being involved in a plot to smear county council chairman Johnny Gardner.
Eldridge was involved in creating a fictitious story about the new chairman and reporting that fiction to SLED while serious issues involving loss of equipment and shorting employee pay were going virtually ignored.
The administrator is charged with carrying out policies approved by county council and creating a smooth running county government organization with good morale.
Several sources within county government say the IT, Procurement and Human Resources departments have been allowed by Eldridge to create virtual fiefdoms outside of the normal organizational chart with little to no oversight.
These same fiefdoms would appear to be at the center of the recent problems.
In December 2018, it was sketchily reported that approximately $270,000 worth of equipment had gone missing from the IT Department. Information received by GSD says the equipment involved is computer switches that were ordered beginning in June 2015, but it does not appear any of the missing switches were delivered to county government buildings.
The FBI was reportedly called in to investigate and GSD has been told that at least several of the switches were traced to Europe.
Initially the crime was reported as a $10,000 embezzlement, then later as a $270,000 robbery. In other words, county staff didn’t really know what had happened even after it was discovered something had.
Obviously there are some serious problems within the IT department. It would seem Procurement would also be involved in the purchase order chain for these types of purchases. Who approved the purchase orders? Where was the equipment delivered? How did this go on for three and an half years before it was discovered?
In a county administration that claims to be fiscally tight fisted and has not been shy to fire employees including department and division heads, how can this amount of equipment go missing, why is the entire issue apparently being swept under the rug and why has no one been disciplined for its loss?
This issue does not speak of a smooth running organization with proper oversight.
Rumblings about fire fighters being shorted in their paychecks began in late November and continued through December.
This was caused by an apparent change to how the county decided to pay them with respect to their unique schedules and how approved annual leave and holiday pay were treated.
The county has since said it was a mistake and, reportedly, the affected personnel have recently received special checks or direct deposits to make up the shortage.
However, with the problem so widespread, it appears a policy was changed in midstream with no advance warning and only the number of complaints lodged about missing pay caused the change to be rescinded.
This would certainly seem to be a problem that falls directly to the Human Resources Department where the standard operating procedures for the county are maintained.
How is it that a “mistake” affected so many employees if there were not a midstream change in policy that no one knew about?
Mess with someone’s pay and you certainly mess with their morale, but this does not seem to be a consideration among senior county staff and the fiefdoms that have been allowed to rise.
At some point in the near future, county council is going to have to discuss the role County Administrator Chris Eldridge played in the bogus allegations made against new council chairman Johnny Gardner.
In addition, Eldridge should be called to explain how so much computer equipment went missing and why so many county employees were shorted in their regular paychecks if he were doing his job in overseeing the smooth running of county government.
During last year’s campaign for council chairman, Gardner heard many complaints about how the county was being run. It is not an exaggeration to say over 90 percent of county employees voted for Gardner because former chairman Mark Lazarus and Eldridge were viewed as being joined at the hip in their approach to county government and its employees.
Part of that hip has been severed. It will soon be time to consider what to do with the other part.