HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Days removed from a heated Horry County Council meeting, the stage could be set Thursday night for more contention among members, this time in regards to seating arrangements.
On Wednesday night, Councilman Al Allen posted to his Facebook page a string of emails with the heading “Do we really have time for this ???????????”
The emails refer to the council’s seating arrangements, which Chairman Johnny Gardner appears to want to amend.
In a Tuesday email to the council clerk, Councilman Harold Worley stated that at least seven members of the governing body want to keep their current seating arrangement.
“The last thing I or other members want to do is embarrass our new Chairman,” Worley wrote. “Thursday’s Regular Council meeting is going to be stressful enough with out adding this issue. Please let Chairman Gardner know how we feel.”
Worley followed up with a Wednesday email stating he wanted a draft ordinance placed on the agenda for the Jan. 22 meeting that establishes a “permanent seating arrangement on the dais using purely objective criteria such as Officers (Chairman and Vice Chairman) and Clerk to Council, seniority, District number, and/or alphabetical order.”
That email was forwarded to the council, with members Gary Loftus, Bill Howard, Tyler Servant and Cam Crawford offering their support for a plan to keep the seating arrangement as is.
The discussion drew the ire of Allen, who accused Worley of placing the county’s clerk and staff in the middle of a “RIDICULOUS fight that is uncalled for along with causing undue stress and division.”
“I’ve never seen in my 12 years on council (or prior) a Chairman being challenged on every move he makes like our new Chairman is being attacked. Mark lost (I supported Mark) Johnny won, GET OVER IT guys !” Allen wrote in the email.
He added that he contacted other county and city councils, and noted that none of them had an ordinance pertaining to “Seating arrangements.”
Allen stated it is the chairman’s responsibility to preserve order and decorum in meetings, and Worley’s proposal would take that authority away from the council and put it in the hands of the staff.
“It’s time for some of you to spit out your pacifiers and give this Chairman the same respect you have previous ones,” Allen wrote in the email.
On Thursday, Worley referred to the issue as “just normal boilerplate council business.”
He said his intention was to simply amend council rules to include language as to how the seats are assigned, noting that the majority of the body wanted to keep their current spots on the dais.
“I have no ax to grind with the new chairman. I think he’s a pretty nice guy,” Worley said.
He added the narrative has been changed, where the issue now at hand centers around a seating arrangement instead of the current investigation involving the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division.
That investigation involves extortion allegations and came at the behest of county administrator Chris Eldridge, who claims Gardner and another man tried to manipulate the director of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation.
On Friday, a tense Horry County Council meeting ended with no action, although some members of the council had planned to vote to suspend Eldridge with pay until the conclusion of the SLED investigation.
A discussion regarding the investigation was supposed to take place in executive session. It failed to happen after the majority of council opposed it on a 10-2 vote. The meeting then quickly adjourned.
WMBF News has reached out to county officials for a physical copy of the emails referenced in Allen’s Facebook post.
Watch Thursday’s meeting live here: