By Paul Gable
Horry County Council will hold a special meeting tomorrow to discuss the SLED report and the part played by Administrator Chris Eldridge in taking false allegations to SLED in order to prompt an investigation of Chairman Johnny Gardner.
It is obvious from the SLED report and lack of evidence of any wrongdoing, Eldridge tried to set up Gardner in order to advance a particular agenda.
What is that agenda? It appears to be to subvert the will of the tens of thousands of voters who put Gardner in office in order to effect much needed change in the way the county was being run.
The agenda includes attempting to guarantee construction of Interstate 73 while ignoring the infrastructure already in place. The recent flooding in three of the last four years demonstrates there is immediate need for improvements and flood mitigation on U.S. 501, S.C. 22 and S.C. 9 as well as needs for improvements on Hwy 90 and Hwy 905.
It includes ignoring the needs for increased staffing for public safety departments while pushing the purchase of $12 million of swamp land for some kind of half-baked wetlands mitigation scheme.
It includes alienating an overwhelming majority of county employees by mistaking the title administrator for dictator.
It includes picking a fight with Treasurer Angie Jones over the addition of one person in her office while costing the county more money in legal fees than would have been spent to fund the position as well as attempting to dictate to other countywide elected officials while only filling an appointed position.
It includes a half-baked scheme to extend the collection of hospitality fees to fund the I-73 project that the cities are in the process of destroying, thereby losing a potential source of revenue that could have benefited the citizens of the entire county by helping fund some of the above mentioned needs.
It includes never taking a serious look at how impact fees could be used in order to keep current residents from having to fund goods and services for new development.
I expect a spirited debate among council members at tomorrow’s special meeting. Unfortunately much of that debate will not actually be about Eldridge’s job performance.
The debate will break down into two sides, those council members who support Gardner and the People and the need for change in the way the county is being run and those who oppose Gardner and the People, either personally or in the interests of those few who have called the shots in the county for a long time.
The opposition to Gardner appears to be led by council member Dennis DiSabato who has reportedly told council members he would never support ‘that SOB Gardner.’
Tomorrow’s debate really boils down to the People v. DiSabato.
As of this writing, there appear to be four council members supporting Gardner and the People and two joining DiSabato with the remaining four holding the outcome in their hands.
To say this debate has fired up social media is to understate the reaction. There is considerable support for Gardner on social media just as there was during last year’s primary election season and there has been throughout the ordeal caused by Eldridge.
We are only one year away from filing for primary elections next year. Any council member looking to be reelected or who has other political goals may want to check where the citizens stand on the issue of supporting or opposing Gardner by supporting or opposing Eldridge and consider the ramifications of opposing the electorate.
And if the DiSabato faction successfully ignores the will of the people and votes to keep Eldridge, they will have rewarded an administrator who, with no evidence, tried to set up the chairman. According to the provisions of Eldridge’s contract, he will be automatically extended for one year with a $10,000 raise on April 21, 2019. Not bad money for snubbing your nose at elected officials.
Council can fire him during that year, with a six month payout, but a raise for a guy who fought so hard against raises for county employees through the years? Doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. Maybe those who claim so often to want to save the county money should consider that!