By Paul Gable
A leaked five page email headed “Attorney Client Privileged” provided the big story in Horry County and state media in the last few days, but questions about the accuracy of the email contents raise questions about why it was produced.
The email from county attorney Arrigo Carotti to incumbent council members and county administrator Chris Eldridge supposedly was a confidential missive to inform council members about possible improper “threats” that allegedly occurred during a meeting between recently sworn in council chairman Johnny Gardner and Luke Barefoot with EDC President/CEO Sandy Davis and her number two Sherri Steele.
But the email goes further by speaking of various conversations, either by phone or in person, which occurred over a two week period. The only record of these conversations is Carotti’s memory. He states in his five page tale the conversations began on December 5th. But Carotti only began writing his email from memory of those conversations (to the best of his recollection) on December 14th.
It is this email that attempts to make a recording of the Gardner/Davis meeting sound potentially sinister.
This is the same email of which Davis told media after it was leaked, “A lot of it is fabricated.”
With the email playing such a large part in the story, I asked a prominent (and in my opinion brilliant) local attorney to provide me with his analysis of the five page missive.
The following quotes are from that analysis:
“A question that jumps out at me is – he (Carotti) starts keeping a Watergate-styled narrative on his computer on Dec 14, as a result of events that started December 5, because “memory fades over time.” We’re talking about nine days! What kind of nonsense is that?”
“Most people who set out to create a document are clearer on the front end of what the purpose of the document is. This one does not.”
“Most documents captioned “attorney-client” privileged will – especially – have a clear delineation of who the Author (which attorney) is drafting the document, and who the recipient CLIENT is, because as any lawyer can tell you (even non-lawyers know this), if you don’t strictly control the dissemination of such documents, the privilege is immediately waived.”
“If you want something to be legally privileged, dissemination must be limited to the client, it must be kept otherwise confidential, but first and foremost, it must be the giving of legal advice! There is no legal advice given in this memo that I can discern. “
“It appears – if there is absolutely no truth in what Carotti has alleged – then certain people who opposed Gardner’s bid for Council Chair have rather ineptly conspired to undermine the County Chairman on the very day he was sworn into office.”
It could be concluded from the above analysis that Carotti’s document was not written to inform council, but rather with the purpose of having it leaked to a news outlet who would run with it. A story using the email as its source was published within 12 hours of Carotti sending the document to council members.
It appears there was a conspiracy to get the name “Johnny Gardner” linked with the word “extortion” into the press to damage Gardner’s reputation before he took office.
And much of the media fell for it without checking whether the contents of the email were true. It didn’t take Charles Perry of MyHorryNews.com long to learn Davis was calling “a lot” of Carotti’s email “fabricated.” It didn’t take long to learn that Donald Godwin called the section about him “totally false.”
This begs the question is anything in the email contents true?
Another question is which of the 12 members of council or Eldridge leaked it?
I would hope the SLED investigation does not end with the conclusion there is nothing to the claim of extortion as Davis and members of the EDC board have already stated.
I would wish the investigation to continue, by taking statements under oath if necessary, to determine: (1) who were the persons contributing to the contents of the Carotti email, (2) who were the persons involved in leaking it to the press, (3) does this constitute a conspiracy to damage Gardner and, if so, (4) who, as a conclusion of the investigation, were the persons involved in the conspiracy?
The Carotti email: Attorney-Client-Privileged (1)