Horry County Council chairman wants hospitality fee discussions held in the open

A file photo shows the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel along Ocean Boulevard. (Source: WMBF News)
A file photo shows the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel along Ocean Boulevard. (Source: WMBF News)
Published: Mar. 28, 2019 at 2:28 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner is opposed to discussions about hospitality fees with the city of Myrtle Beach being held behind closed doors, according to an email he sent to other members of council.

That email went out Wednesday, two days after Horry County Council voted to move talks over how to fund Interstate 73, which would include hospitality fees, to next month.

On Tuesday, the Myrtle Beach City Council made a motion to create a confidentiality agreement with Horry County and other cities looking to fund I-73. Members said any discussions would most likely take place behind closed doors because of pending lawsuits.

In Gardner’s email, obtained by WMBF News through a Freedom of Information Act request, he told the county council he’d begun reaching out to area mayors to set up a meeting to negotiate hospitality fees.

According to the county council chairman, the mayors aren’t willing to sit down unless Gardner signs the confidentiality agreement.

“I am not comfortable with the idea of negotiating the distribution of public funds in private,” Gardner wrote. “As your chairman, I do not think it is good for the citizens of our county and I personally have a problem with the idea of dealing behind closed doors.”

The chairman’s remarks drew the support of a number of county council members, who agreed with Gardner’s notion of having the talks out in the open.

“Mr. Chairman, please don’t sign that ridiculous agreement. It’s a joke. Who do they think they are?” councilman Harold Worley responded.

The Horry County Council is scheduled to meet for its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday. At this time, it’s unknown if discussions about the confidentiality agreement will be on the agenda.

The city and the county have found themselves at odds in recent months, with those disagreements moving to the courtroom.

Earlier this month, the city of Myrtle Beach sued the county in an effort to recover millions of dollars in hospitality fees city leaders claim was collected illegally.

In December, Horry County and Horry County Schools filed suit against the city after plans for building a school in The Market Common were dropped.

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