A sometimes heated public input session at last week’s DRC (Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corporation) board meeting highlighted the agency’s confusion about its status and the responsibility it has to the public.
The DRC likes to tout itself as a private corporation and some of its recent moves, such as secretly purchasing properties in the Superblock until outed by local media, speak to that attitude.
However, South Carolina law is clear that the DRC is a public body and, as such, owes the citizens full transparency of its actions.
The DRC was created by Myrtle Beach city ordinance and is funded from the parking fees collected from meters and lots on city property. The city set up a $10 million line of credit from a local bank for the DRC to purchase properties. Money to pay back draws on this line of credit comes from the parking fee revenues.
Among those entities defined as a public body subject to the S.C. Freedom of Information statute are “any organization, corporation, or agency supported in whole or in part by public funds or expending public funds․” S.C.Code Ann. § 30–4–20(a).
In a July 17, 2013 decision (DiSabato v South Carolina Association of School Administrators), the S. C. Supreme Court held, “When a block of public funds is diverted en masse from a public body to a related organization, or when the related organization undertakes the management of the expenditure of public funds, the only way that the public can determine with specificity how those funds were spent is through access to the records and affairs of the organization receiving and spending the funds.”
The parking fees, themselves, are a problem. They appear to violate deed restrictions included when Myrtle Beach Farms transferred company owned land to the city along the oceanfront.
This violation not only applies to parking areas charging fees along the Golden Mile, but also to the many areas in the south end of the city where parking fees have been charged for a number of years.
One of the deed restrictions states, “…property shall not be used for commercial purposes by any person, private corporation, municipal corporation or agency of government.”
If parking fees are collected, the revenue is dedicated to the DRC and the DRC uses this revenue to purchase property, how can the collection of the fees not be considered “for commercial purposes?”