HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus is responding after he walked out of a community forum in Burgess last Thursday.
The forum was meant as an opportunity for community members to meet the candidates running for various positions in the upcoming primaries.
Chad Caton, a former Horry County firefighter, addressed concerns he had about Horry County Fire Rescue with Lazarus during the meeting.
Caton talked about retention, low pay and the lack of new equipment.
Lazarus responded to the question, saying he and everyone else on the Horry County Council do whatever they can to make sure firefighters are taken care of.
Several people in the crowd didn't like Lazarus' answer, so they started yelling at him, calling him "dirty" and a "jerk."
Lazarus then answered one more question from a man with the Fraternal Order of Police before he walked out in the middle of the forum.
Later, Lazarus posted a video on Facebook where he called the people who yelled at him "union thugs."
"Maybe the word I should have used is 'union bosses,'" Lazarus said Monday. "Maybe they were there acting as the union bosses or representatives. But to me, that's how they acted, was thugs."
Caton said he doesn't appreciate being called a union thug for a number of reasons. For one, there are no unions in South Carolina. Also, he says he doesn't appreciate that phrase, especially since Lazarus said in the meeting he wanted everyone to act like "southern gentlemen."
"I love the concept of southern gentleman," Caton said. "I'm not a true southern gentleman, but I was raised like one, and I know my momma wouldn't want me calling nobody a thug."
Lazarus' opponent for Horry County Council Chairman, Johnny Gardner, also responded to the incumbent's actions.
"That just wasn't good leadership," Gardner said. "It could have been diffused very easily."
Caton also wasn't happy with a comment Lazarus made about how he wouldn't answer a question because Caton was not a current employee of the County.
Lazarus clarified, saying he still answered the question, but he wasn't going to discuss the specifics of Caton's employment as that was a personnel matter.