Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce says lawsuit is filled with false, baseless allegations

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce held a conference at 1 p.m. Tuesday to respond to a lawsuit filed last week alleging the organization "consistently redirected taxpayer funds" to businesses started by current and/or former employees. Members of the chamber said the lawsuit was filled with baseless, vindictive, unsubstantiated allegations made by a disgruntled former member.

Watch full video of the news conference on our Facebook page below:

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

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.'"

WMBF News fact-checked the figures used in the lawsuit, and found that while many of the figures matched public records released by the chamber, there was one $28 million discrepancy regarding one of the companies named in the suit. Read more here.

At Tuesday's news conference, MBACC board chairwoman Carla Schuessler said the lawsuit was filled with unsubstantiated allegations and baseless accusations against the chamber by a disgruntled former member.

"The chamber adheres with all applicable laws and guidelines," Schuessler said. "We take the public stewardship of our funds very seriously."

The marketing council chairman, Matt Klugman, addressed each company listed in the lawsuit, and stated that, "Mrs. Mitchell is making a false and shocking disregard to the facts."

"We reject this meaningless and mean-spirited attack," Schuessler continued. "Had she simply asked questions we would have answered them. We have no choice but to refute it in the court of law."

The chamber released these statements about the businesses they said are falsely attacked by Mitchell in her lawsuit:

Visibility & Conversions is a local business employing local residents. Through a competitive bidding/RFP process, this business was selected by the Board of Directors to manage the digital marketing accounts of the Chamber. The business is located at 11947 Grandhaven Drive, Suite North, Murrells Inlet, SC and has never operated out of a storage shed as Ms. Mitchell falsely states in her lawsuit. This business is owned by a former employee of the Chamber. However, at no time did this individual work as an employee of the Chamber and operate a business contracting with the Chamber.

Schuessler then said that she and the other members of the chamber would be walking across the street to support the city of Myrtle Beach in their renewal of the Tourism Development Fee, which was due for a second and final reading during the regular council meeting Tuesday.

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

Copyright 2018 WMBF News. All rights reserved.