Councilman blasts hospitality fee deal, says it would ‘rape the taxpayers’
HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – A Horry County councilman wasn’t able to hide his displeasure with a proposed resolution to the hospitality fee battle that has divided Horry County and municipalities.
During the Horry County Council meeting Tuesday night, councilman Harold Worley addressed his concerns.
Last week, Horry County leaders and attorneys for Myrtle Beach took part in a nearly 10-hour mediation meeting to try and resolve the legal feud.
Myrtle Beach filed a lawsuit in March, accusing the county of illegally collecting hospitality tax money from municipalities without consent.
The legal battle has put the future of I-73 in jeopardy because Horry County had intended to use hospitality money to help pay for the roadway.
Since then, there has been a number of appeals and injunctions in the case that has brought confusion to people and businesses in the area, so a judge ordered the two parties into mediation.
On Thursday, the two parties announced they had a resolution, but it must be presented to city and county leaders before it can before the court.
Worley started talking about the proposed resolution and said he’s disturbed what he’s hearing about it and called it a bad deal.
He was interrupted by Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti who said Worley had to be careful about discussing the possible resolution because the people involved are bound by a confidentiality agreement.
The comment angered Worley and he fired back.
“I’m bound too. I represent the people, I don’t represent lawyers,” Worley said.
He said that he wouldn’t vote for the proposed hospitality fee deal and then called out Myrtle Beach for not having an elected official at the mediation.
“Why in the world would the municipalities not have an elected official at the mediation? How are you going to have a settlement if you don’t’ have the stakeholders there? There was never intended to be a settlement, it was intended to be a class [action] and that way they can rape the taxpayers. It’s awful, it’s awful what’s going on here behind closed doors and I won’t be a part of it,” Worley said.
Worley said the agreement that is on the table was already one that had been proposed back in March, but instead, the municipalities and their attorneys have let it drag on.
“We’re going to give you every penny of your money, yet the lawyers won’t accept that. But now they do when there’s $6.5 -$7 million worth of attorneys’ fees on the table,” Worley said. “I will not be a party to paying attorneys’ fees to the tune of $7 million… when there was no argument, there was no argument. The only argument all along has been attorney fees… how much they can get out of the taxpayer.”
After Worley’s speech, county council members voted to go into executive session, but Worley did not join them.
WMBF News spoke with Horry County Chairman Johnny Gardner after the meeting, he said he can’t comment on what was said in the mediation and wasn’t sure what Worley has heard about the proposed deal.
“You got to remember that street talk is what it is. It’s hearsay and it’s people talking and it’s rumors. Some of it’s educated based on their sources and things like that. I can’t speculate what they’ve heard and who they’ve heard it from," Gardner said.
Gardner said that the details of the proposed hospitality fee resolution will be presented to all of the county council during an executive session at the next meeting which is set for November 19.
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