By Paul Gable
Based on his actions over the past six days, it appears Horry County Council member Harold Worley is attempting to lead an insurrection against new council chairman Johnny Gardner.
It began last Friday when Worley appeared determined to avoid having council discuss recent actions by County Administrator Chris Eldridge designed to smear Gardner before he had even assumed office.
This included an interpretation by County Attorney Arrigo Carotti of state law regarding requirements for removing the administrator that three attorneys I have consulted say was a complete misinterpretation of the law.
According to an email chain provided to GSD, Worley has succeeded in enlisting four additional council members, Tyler Servant, Cam Crawford, Bill Howard and Gary Loftus into what I will call the Gang of Five in a new attempt aimed at embarrassing and marginalizing the new chairman.
Those same four supported Worley’s antics last Friday to suppress discussion of the administrator’s actions in embarrassing the county.
This new attempt regards a change in seating arrangement on the council dais that Gardner has called for. The arrangement is numerical which Gardner believes will make it easier for meeting attendees and home viewers to identify their particular district member.
On the surface, this looks like a completely ridiculous division to have.
With the real problems in the county, public safety shortages, infrastructure, storm water and so on, the most pressing issue to five council members is where they sit on the dais?
But is it really about where members sit?
I have been told by business people in the county since last Friday that the Dunes Club Crowd is not happy with Gardner in the chairman’s seat. Worley has long positioned himself as a champion of the people against that crowd, but I wonder.
What is most interesting here is the Gang of Five all represent council districts totally or substantially east of the waterway and all five live east of the waterway.
The waterway has long been a political dividing line in the county, with control of the group east resting with what I am calling the Dunes Club crowd, and that group holding much of the power in county government through the years and still holding power in Myrtle Beach today.
However, it was the average citizens of the county and the vast majority of county employees who supported Gardner, voted Gardner into office and continue to support him today.
The Gang of Five is working against that popular support, apparently unwilling and unable to acknowledge Mark Lazarus and his connections to the Dunes Club crowd is gone from the scene.
With this second attempt at Gardner, it appears a pattern has set in to marginalize his chairmanship and to marginalize the citizens who voted for him.
The Good Ole Boys don’t give up easily and I believe we are only in the opening stages of what could become a protracted struggle against Gardner and the citizens of Horry County.
Below is a copy of an email string containing a motion Worley had drafted for him by County Attorney Arrigo Carotti attempting to stop the chairman’s decision to change the seating on the council dais:
From: “Harold Worley” <email@example.com>
Date: January 9, 2019 at 4:24:00 PM EST
To: “‘Hartley, Pat'” <HartleyP@HorryCounty.org>
Subject: FW: County Council Dais seating
Pat, please forward this revised draft on to all Council Members.. thanks, Harold
From: Carotti, Arrigo [mailto:CarottiA@HorryCounty.org]
Sent: Wednesday, January 09, 2019 2:59 PM
To: Harold Worley; Harold Worley; Servant, Tyler
Subject: RE: County Council Dais seating
I move that beginning immediately, and until further notice, for purposes of County Council meetings held in Council Chambers, Council Members retain the seats they occupied on the dais in December of last year, with the exception that Mr. Gardner be seated in place of Mr. Lazarus and Mr. Bellamy be seated in place of Mr. Phillips;
and that the Administrator be instructed to prepare a draft Ordinance to be placed on the agenda for first reading at the regular Council meeting on January 22 establishing permanent seating on the dais to be that in existence in December of 2018 by way of Chairman and Council districts, and the Clerk to Council, unless altered by future Resolution of County Council.
Please let me know if you need me to modify or if you need anything else.
Note the second part of the motion directs the administrator to prepare an ordinance so the council can attempt to pass a law establishing seating arrangements on the dais. This, again, puts together the pair, Carotti and Eldridge, who attempted to smear Gardner before he took office by creating, in their minds, a fantasy conspiracy. It would appear Worley is firmly in bed with them.
It should be noted that Worley has already spent more time protesting new council seating arrangements than he was willing to spend questioning and discussing from the council dais the actions of Carotti and Eldridge in smearing the chairman and embarrassing the county. Interesting priorities don’t you think?
As an aside, hopefully Worley and Carotti are familiar enough with council rules that it will take the signatures of seven members of council endorsing the proposed ordinance for it to be placed on the agenda.
Below is a response from Gardner to all council members:
From: Johnny Gardner [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2019 10:04 AM
To: Hartley, Pat <HartleyP@HorryCounty.org>
Cc: Johnny Gardner <email@example.com>
Subject: New seating assignments
Please forward this to council.
I have always been told that the office we hold, and by extension the seats we occupy, do not belong to us. They belong to the people. It was the people I was thinking of when I had the seats arranged in an orderly fashion.
Pursuant to my duties of order and decorum, as well as precedent established by previous chairmen, I had the seats arranged to help the audience more easily find their councilman. As you know, these changes were made prior to the objection. This will be our new seating assignments. Again I was thinking of the people, not council.
But I did discuss the new seating order with a majority of council after the election and not a single member objected.
Mr. Worley I am particularly troubled by your actions because you told me before the changes were implemented that you thought it was a good idea. There is no hidden agenda here and no one should feel threatened.
My thoughts on the seating order were simple and based on the number of councilmen and the size of our dais. As long as the chairman and clerk are in the center, it makes sense to start on the left (the audience’s right) and proceed in district order wrapping around the dais and ending back up with the chairman as number “12.”
Mr. Worley I am also concerned about your comment in your email that the council meeting will be stressful enough. I have reviewed the agenda and it looks straight forward. If you are aware of any issue that will make tonight’s meeting stressful I would appreciate it if you would be so kind as to let me know.