(Ed. Note – Some negative reactions heard locally to the Karon Mitchell lawsuit are like the Chinese fireworks pictured above – loud and colorful but, in the end, just smoke.)
On April 5, 2018 at 3:05 p.m., Karon Mitchell filed a lawsuit against the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (MBACC), the City of Myrtle Beach and Horry County alleging misuse of tourism development fee (TDF) and accommodations tax (ATax) public funds.
In response to the lawsuit, MBACC issued a blanket denial of the allegations and at least one local television news outlet in the area attempted to, in its words, “fact check” the allegations.
The MBACC response came in a media statement issued April 6, 2018, by board chair Carla Schuessler:
“Today we had an opportunity to review the lawsuit that was filed against us, and l am disappointed to see that we will have to divert our time and resources to address this case which is full of conjecture, innuendo and inaccurate statements. The Chamber complies with all applicable laws regarding the use of public funds and selects vendors based on best business practices.”
The Chamber statement went on to say it will hold a press conference next week to accurately address the statements in the lawsuit.
The local news outlet broadcast a story April 6, 2018 where it claimed to find discrepancies, between claims in the lawsuit and MBACC public disclosure documents, with respect to public money spent with what are called in the lawsuit “crony companies.” According to the lawsuit, crony companies are companies formed by former and/or current Chamber employees and, in at least one instance, a company owned by a MBACC executive board member.
This appeared to be much ado about nothing as the MBACC public disclosure documents used generic descriptions instead of specific vendor names for some of the expenses listed. If those challenged expense amounts did not go to any of the crony companies, next week’s MBACC press conference can “accurately address” those statements and tell us exactly what company did receive the payments.
Another area addressed in the media story was a statement in the lawsuit that “the chamber funneled tourism tax money through the crony companies to contribute to politicians supported by the chamber.”