By Paul Gable
A complaint brought by Skydive Myrtle Beach against Horry County Department of Airports has been tentatively scheduled for oral arguments before the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA May 8-10, 2018.
See extract of official electronic notification here: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
A quick recap of the case:
In early 2014, shortly after Skydive Myrtle Beach (SDMB) reported to the FAA of discriminatory actions against it by the Horry County Department of Airports (HCDA), HCDA and other Horry County officials apparently decided they wanted to eliminate SDMB from operating in Horry County.
Tandem skydiving is a recognized and approved use of publicly supported airport facilities by the Federal Aviation Administration. It is illegal for an airport that accepts publicly funded grants, as HCDA does annually, to discriminate against one type of approved aviation activity, say helicopter operations, over another – tandem skydiving.
In 2014, HCDA began circulating stories about alleged safety violations committed by SDMB while it was operating out of Grand Strand Airport.
In October 2015, Horry County government ultimately evicted SDMB from Grand Strand Airport using a 73 page FAA Director’s Determination as justification. It is the findings in the FAA Director’s Determination that is on appeal before the Fourth Circuit.
Much of the Director’s Determination report was based on 112 safety violations allegedly committed by SDMB and quite unofficially and sloppily documented by HCDA and its tower operator at Grand Strand Airport, Robinson Aviation.
On at least three occasions since the Director’s Determination was published, the FAA has admitted in email correspondence regarding Freedom of Information Act requests that it has no documentation with respect to investigations, fines or other actions taken by HCDA on the alleged 112 violations.
Likewise, Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti wrote in an email response to FOIA requests seeking information on the 112 alleged violations that, “These records are provided in an abundance of caution, in that each may or may not demonstrate violation by Skydive Myrtle Beach of Horry County Department of Airports Minimum Standards, as that assessment has not been undertaken.”
Despite the fact that both the FAA and Horry County admit there is no official record of any alleged safety violations committed by SDMB, the skydiving business remains closed.
As this publication and other media outlets have written stories about this case and the apparent behind the scenes manipulation of facts by Horry County and the FAA, Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti has continued to assert that Horry County acted on firm legal basis with its actions.
Below is an extract from an email sent from Carotti to at least one member of council questioning the case (Aaron Holly is the principal owner of SDMB):
“On Aug 15, 2017, at 11:24 AM, Carotti, Arrigo <CarottiA@HorryCounty.org> wrote:
“The misrepresentation of facts and the law has been ongoing on the part of Mr. Holly, misguided bloggers, and Holly surrogates for several years now, involving universally unsuccessful litigation by Holly, and pending litigation against the FAA, the State of South Carolina, Horry County, officials and employees. There have been no new admissions, the FAA’s and County’s sound positions in the matter remaining the same. Defamatory commentary on the part of Holly and his surrogates also has been ongoing and is expected to continue, but has been rightfully dismissed by all who have discerned the true set of affairs, borne out in voluminous court documents and public records.
Arrigo P. Carotti / County Attorney”
Apparently the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals does not understand the “true set of affairs” referred to by Carotti above. After perusing the “voluminous court documents and public records”, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has chosen to move the case forward to oral arguments rather than dismissing it as requested in a filing by Horry County.
And how can Carotti assert the litigation has been “universally unsuccessful” when one of the two cases brought by Holly will be argued before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and the other remains quite active in U.S. Federal District Court?
This is exactly how it goes when individuals or businesses file legal actions against government agencies. The government uses your tax dollars to hire large, expensive law firms to fight against you, using any means to win including ignoring the law if necessary.
“Oh! What a Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice to Deceive” William Shakespeare