The exchange at Tuesday night’s council meeting between council member Danny Hardee, Fire Chief Joseph Tanner and Deputy Chief Jack Walker highlighted some of the problems that must be fixed in the inner workings of Horry County Government.
Speaking as a point of personal privilege, Hardee talked directly to the top two fire department officials about morale and other personnel issues within the department.
As Chairman of the county’s Public Safety Committee, Hardee was trying to do the right thing, but he did it the wrong way.
Under state law governing the county’s council/administrator form of government, Hardee should have been addressing administrator Steve Gosnell, not the heads of a county department. The following extract from Title IV of state law applies:
“SECTION 4‑9‑660. Authority of council and its members over county officers and employees.
Except for the purposes of inquiries and investigations, the council shall deal with county officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the county administrator solely through the administrator, and neither the council nor its members shall give orders or instructions to any such officers or employees.”
Hardee was not speaking to the two fire officers as part of any formal inquiry or investigation. According to his own statement, Hardee was speaking from notes he took from informal meetings he has held with fire department personnel in various fire stations throughout the county.
There was a breakdown of protocol at several levels as Hardee spoke. Council Chairman Johnny Gardner should have gaveled down Hardee for being out of order. He did not.
Administrator Gosnell should have told Hardee such a conversation should be held between the administrator and council member, but not during a regular meeting of council as it involved employees who work for the administrator, not council. He did not.
County Attorney Arrigo Carotti should have told Hardee the conversation was not proper under state law and that such remarks should be addressed to the administrator during a meeting between the administrator and council member, otherwise legal issues could arise.