Lawsuit alleges Myrtle Beach chamber gave taxpayer funds to ‘Crony Companies’

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – A lawsuit filed Thursday against the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce alleges the organization "consistently redirected taxpayer funds" to businesses started by current and/or former employees.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday by Karon Mitchell, names the MBACC, the city of Myrtle Beach and Horry County as defendants.

It alleges portions of the tourism development fee were sent to the companies, which were chosen "solely for their connection to MBACC and not for any 'research based outcomes.'"

"These Crony Companies were not subject to any competitive bidding and were given a substantive advantage through insider information and influence with MBACC, causing substantial harm to all other Myrtle Beach businesses that could have competed for the same goods and services," the lawsuit states.

Eight companies were listed in the lawsuit as having received over 46 percent of the total expenditures of TDF funds, Myrtle Beach accommodations tax funds and Horry County accommodations tax funds over the last three years.

The plaintiff is asking that the defendants be declared in violation of the law and enjoined from any "further expenditure or allocation of any and all TDF Funds, MB-A-Tax Funds, and HC-A-Tax Funds until Defendants cease the violations of the law."

Mitchell said Thursday night she thinks there's corruption going on and she wants it to stop.

"I'm very passionate about Myrtle Beach. I'm very passionate about business. My family was in business here for 40 years," Mitchell said.

That's part of the reason she filed the suit against the chamber, the city of Myrtle Beach and Horry County.

"I believe that anybody and everybody should have a chance and a shot at making money," Mitchell said.

She added that fair chance hasn't been given to every business owner in Myrtle Beach.

"Any time you have tax money of the people – the people's money – there should be a bidding process. And there hasn't been one," Mitchell said.

Mark Kruea, Myrtle Beach spokesperson, said the city does not comment on pending litigation. Kelly Moore, Horry County spokesperson, provided a similar response.

Carla Schuessler, board chair of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, issued the following statement:

We have not seen the lawsuit; therefore, we cannot comment on the specifics. However, it's unfortunate that this individual has never contacted the Chamber with these questions so we could have cleared up any concerns. The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce has complied with all applicable laws regarding the use of public funds and selects providers and partners based on best business practices.

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