By Paul Gable
Horry County’s response to the lawsuit filed by Treasurer Angie Jones raises many questions about what exactly is going on in county government.
Shortly after assuming office on July 1, 2017, Jones requested funding be added to the Treasurer’s Office budget of approximately $30,000 in order to hire one additional clerk to help with service to customers in Conway, Myrtle Beach, Little River and Surfside Beach offices as needed.
This request was rejected by the county council’s Administration Committee.
As a result, Jones filed her lawsuit against the county requesting sufficient funding and staffing to effectively run her office.
In response to the summons and complaint, the county charged, “… such issues are solely as a result of her (Jones) mismanagement of her offices and her own decisions, including her decisions to drive out and remove and replace competent long-term employees with friends and political supporters lacking in relevant experience.”
In addition, the county alleges Jones has exceeded the budget for the Treasurer’s Office and should be held personally responsible for paying back to the county any budget deficit as well as attorney’s fees for defending the lawsuit.
Speaking of mismanagement and paying back budget deficits by this county government is laughable in light of past and present issues with its initiatives, its budget and its decisions.
After county council cancelled a proposed west side terminal project at Myrtle Beach International Airport in 2007, the county had to pay back to the FAA over $7 million in grant money spent on the ill-fated project.
No one suggested county council members and/or county staff should be individually responsible for paying back any portion of that money although it was a combination of their bad planning, poor decisions and blindness to reality that caused the project to go hesitatingly forward for nearly seven years before it was stopped.
At the end of last week, we heard reports that another project of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation had fallen through when Greenwood Hall closed its doors only weeks after reportedly opening them.
A little bit of research on the internet brought to light the fact that Greenwood Hall was a struggling company, short of cash for the past several years. A May 31, 2017 filing by Greenwood Hall with the Securities and Exchange Commission stated in part, ““Presently, the Company (Greenwood Hall) does not have sufficient cash resources to meet its plans in the twelve months following May 31, 2017. These factors raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue…”
Over four months later, either ignoring or unaware of that filing, MBREDC President and CEO Joshua Kay told local news media that MBREDC had done “a lot of research on the company” and that a new CEO (hired in August 2017) had made a lot of changes “that are changing the culture and the profitability of the company.” Kay added that MBREDC was looking forward to a long, successful partnership with Greenwood Hall.
After news of the company closing its doors last Friday was reported, Kay stressed that no incentive money had been paid to Greenwood Hall. What he didn’t mention is how much money was spent by MBREDC for travel and expenses associated with recruiting an essentially bankrupt company to relocate to Horry County.
This is not the first bad decision made at MBREDC over the six year interval since the county upped its grant from the county budget to MBREDC to approximately $1.6 million per year – AvCraft, Ithaca Gun and Project Blue come quickly to mind.
Nevertheless, MBREDC and its $1.6 million grant remains the sacred cow in the county budget unable to even be questioned by council members, according to several sources in county government.
It seems paying back over $7 million to the FAA and funding MBREDC at the rate of $1.6 million per year for little to no results are examples of bad decisions and mismanagement.
How does the county dare to charge Jones with those actions and fail to add approximately $30,000 in funding to the Treasurer’s Office budget while squandering considerably more while failing to learn any lessons from the above two examples?
And those are only two of the more egregious through the years.