MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The lawyer for a former member of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce who has sued the organization has filed a response to the chamber's motion to have the word "crony" stricken from the suit.
In her lawsuit, Karen Mitchell alleges portions of the tourism development fee were sent to eight businesses started by current or former chamber employees, and that these companies were chosen "solely for their connection to MBACC and not for any 'research based outcomes.'"
Those businesses were referred to as "crony companies."
The chamber's motion, filed April 13, said the word "crony" is a "blatant attempt to cast the (chamber) and various private persons and companies in a prejudicial and negative light, bordering on slander."
Regarding that motion, Mitchell's Columbia-based attorney, Tucker Player, filed a response on Friday that stated Merriam-Webster defines crony as "a close friend, especially of long standing." It also noted Thedictionary.com has a similar definition.
A page from Merriam-Webster's online dictionary that defined the word crony was included as an exhibit to go along with the response.
"Nothing in these definitions references anything criminal, sinister, impertinent, or scandalous," the response states. "The synonyms offered for 'crony' are similarly innocuous and non-inflammatory words such as 'chum,' 'pal,' 'friend,' 'associate' and 'confidant.'"
The response went on to say the eight companies "suffered no prejudice from the use of the word crony, and even if they did, it is irrelevant to the motion before the Court."
A press conference held by the MBACC on April 10 was also referenced in the plaintiff's response, where it was noted the speakers confirmed all but one of the eight companies listed in the lawsuit were run by former chamber employees.
"There were statements made during the conference, and in a really snazzy video MBACC put on Facebook, that MBACC used requests for proposals, requests for qualifications, and a competitive bidding process for the tax funds received from the City and County," the response stated.
The response went on to say outgoing chamber CEO Brad Dead "contradicted this narrative" in an interview given to WMBF's news partner, My Horry News, where he said the questions being asked in the lawsuit were "fair" and derived from the MBACC's own information.
"Just about every bit of this information that's come out is coming from information we put out," Dean told My Horry News. "And I actually think that's a good thing. That tells me that the process of transparency is working because even our most ardent opponents and detractors are taking our information and using it against us. And while we may not agree with the way they're framing it and explaining it, at least they're using the information we put out."