By Paul Gable
It has become increasingly apparent over the last several months that Horry County Council needs to contract an independent attorney to provide it with legal counsel and guidance exclusively.
The need was uniquely demonstrated during council’s Administration Committee meeting July 12th.
During that meeting, committee members discussed a resolution to be considered by full council at its regular meeting Tuesday July 16, 2013. The resolution states council does not intend to extend its current lease at Myrtle Beach International Airport with Huffman Helicopters.
Huffman Helicopters has several leases with the county’s airport department for different operations. The helicopter amusement rides leaving the Myrtle Beach airport have been the subject of increasingly negative comments from citizens impacted by the noise and other disturbances caused by operations.
Huffman receives a sympathetic ear from some members of county staff who like the fuel purchases by the business from the airport and the inflation of airport operations numbers that the flights cause.
Horry County staff attorney Arrigo Carotti warned committee members of potentially grave consequences for the Myrtle Beach airport should the current lease not be extended or renegotiated with Huffman and the helicopter business appeal the county’s decision with the Federal Aviation Administration.
“The FAA is the 1,000 pound gorilla in the room,” said Carotti. “The FAA mindset is the airport is theirs (because of the millions of dollars the FAA has provided to the airport over the years.)”
What Carotti was trying to convince council is that the county has no exclusive right to determine who may rent space at the county owned airport. He went to far as to say that the U.S. government has the right to take back possession of the airport and require the county to pay back millions of dollars received over the years in grants.
Talk about your basic apocalyptic scenario – Carotti doesn’t have to take a back seat to Hollywood science fiction writers with this one!
The scenario is, of course, absurd. The FAA isn’t going to step in and take ownership of the airport because county council does not choose to extend a lease to a helicopter amusement ride business.
But, Carotti’s actions are reminiscent of other pronouncements he has made over the past several months.
Requested by a council member to prepare an amendment to the county’s solid waste flow control ordinance, Carotti said such an amendment would adversely affect a court case over flow control that the county is a party to and is currently at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
There was no explanation of how a case that has been decided at the federal district court level and is under appeal at the next level can be affected by an amendment to the law that occurs after close of the court record on which the appeal will be decided.
Needless to say, the requested amendment has never been prepared.
At the opposite end of the spectrum was the attempt by Carotti and other county staff to rush a new, and some would say ill-considered, adult entertainment ordinance through council before a recently filed lawsuit against the county is heard.
The form of government under which Horry County operates is council determines policy and the job of staff is to carry policy out. This has been lost lately with staff, apparently, attempting to establish policy and carry it out while providing council with absurd scenarios of what will happen if the staff determined policy is not instituted.
In fairness to Carotti, he is a staff attorney and his first responsibility is to Horry County’s administration.
For this reason, it is past time for council to hire its own attorney to provide guidance on issues where council’s policy decisions conflict with staff desires.
The Horry County Planning Commission has its own attorney for just such occurrences. Council needs the same consideration.