With the City of Myrtle Beach announcing last week it plans to appeal the judge’s order on a settlement of the hospitality fee lawsuit it brought against Horry County, it appears the city has taken the stance of ‘my way or the highway’ on the lawsuit issue.
Everything has been settled and agreed to between the parties in the lawsuit except for the disbursement of approximately $19 million the county collected in the various city jurisdictions in the county between March and August 2019.
Horry County asked the judge to order that money be returned to the city’s in which it was collected. The judge agreed.
Myrtle Beach requested one half of those funds be returned to the cities and one-half established as a fund from which it may pay out refunds to individuals who paid the hospitality fee between the above months with any unclaimed amount going to the South Carolina Bar Association’s fund for legal services for low income residents.
Under the county plan, Myrtle Beach would receive $11,170,800 of the approximately $19 million total. This money could be spent on infrastructure and public safety services associated with tourism, according to state law.
Under the city plan, Myrtle Beach would receive $5,585,400. Why would the city want to receive less money and why would it appeal a judge’s order that awarded it more?
The dispute over the settlement money split is about interpretation of Rule 23 of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, which deals with class action lawsuits.
Myrtle Beach issued the following statement as an explanation, “This appeal is necessary to finally determine the rights of the other members of the class — those who paid the Hospitality Fee to Horry County during the period when it was in dispute — regarding distribution of the portion of the $19 million common fund that was not otherwise resolved by the settlement agreement.
Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and City Manager John Pedersen have both added the city’s attorneys said the appeal is necessary in order to shield the city from any potential liability related to a suit that may be brought by a potential claimant.
I have spoken to two attorneys not involved in the lawsuit who said the city is already shielded from any claim by the trial judge’s order. In addition, neither believe this is a class action suit.