By Paul Gable
Horry County Solid Waste Authority (HCSWA) Executive Director Danny Knight was quoted in a local media outlet Thursday attempting to give justifications why the authority form of governance should not be changed.
Knight was talking about the grandiose plan the HCSWA has for horse and walking trails, ball fields and other recreational facilities on its landfill site after the landfill closes in 2035. His theme was if the county council decides to change the form of governance of the HCSWA from the present authority to a committee or commission, all will be lost for the citizens of Horry County.
To this we have one thing to say – bullsheisse!
To be fair, Knight was only doing his job as he sees it. Remember, he was hired by the HCSWA after he retired as county administrator.
The HCSWA had conducted a nationwide search for an executive director complete with educational requirements and experience in landfill operations. Knight had none of the qualifications and was hired for more than the advertised upper salary limit.
Why? He was hired for his perceived political connections and hubris. And it’s a neat arrangement for Knight because he collects his monthly payments from the state public pension fund while also collecting his HCSWA salary.
There is nothing new about this type of doomsday pronouncement from the HCSWA, except for the fact that this time it was done by a ‘public money double dipper’.
A dozen years ago, Carson Benton, then HCSWA board chairman, and Mary Eaddy, then HCSWA public relations contractor, spent over $50,000 of public money on a mailer to all citizens in Horry County saying the HCSWA board was the only thing keeping barges filled with New York City garbage from floating down the Intracoastal Waterway to the Hwy 90 landfill.
That mailer potentially caused an ethics problem for the authority, but it had a ready answer. At that time, public agencies were prohibited from spending public money on that type of PR lobbying effort. So the HCSWA provided all kinds of documents and justifications to the S.C. Ethics Commission to prove it was a private agency and not subject to S.C. Ethics Laws.
Today, the HCSWA board members and top officials file a Statement of Economic Interest with the S.C. Ethics Commission each year as public officials. Nothing has changed during the intervening 12 years in the makeup of the HCSWA or the provisions for appointing board members. The agency just suddenly morphed from a private agency to a public agency, almost like magic.
This proves the old cliché ‘believe none of what you hear and half of what you see’ when dealing with HCSWA statements, officials or board members. Even if they don’t know what is going on, they buy the HCSWA official party line like a bunch of sycophants.
Anything that comes from HCSWA representatives is what seems necessary at the time to protect the agency from any changes! Its representatives will just as easily argue one side of an issue as the other depending totally upon what is determined needed at the time and being totally irrespective of the facts!
Yes, it is past time to study options for governance of the HCSWA so that the agency can begin to serve the citizens of Horry County rather than itself!