The City of Myrtle Beach attempted to pass off a $6 million class action suit settlement at the Supreme Court level. The Honorable William H. Seals, Jr. would have none of it.
This all stems from a hospitality tax passed by Horry County Council in 1996 that sunset in 2016. Horry County Councilman Mark Lazarus and the then Horry County Council extended the tax into perpetuity.
The tax typically brings in $41 million annually collecting 1.5 percent county-wide.
Myrtle Beach filed a lawsuit in March 2019 against Horry County, claiming that the county was illegally collecting the tax. Horry County had not gotten the consent and approval of the City of Myrtle Beach to extend the tax.
All the other cities inside Horry County then joined the lawsuit on the side of Myrtle Beach.
The tax is paid by tourists and local residents.
When the settlement went to mediation, as most lawsuits do, the City of Myrtle Beach had the audacity to claim it was a “class action lawsuit” filed on behalf of multiple parties.
Myrtle Beach demanded $6 million in hospitality tax funded legal fees for their lawyers.
HOW THEY DID THAT WITH A STRAIGHT FACE SHOULD BE BEYOND MOST HORRY COUNTY RESIDENTS!
JUDGE SETS THE TONE
Wrote Judge Seals, “The court finds that while the South Carolina Bar Foundation has laudable goals including low cost or no cost legal representation, the Hospitality Fee in this case was paid by tourists, vacationers, and residents alike with the expectation that the moneys would be used only for tourism related purposes,” according to the Seals’ court filing.
The court documents go on to state that having 100% of the settlement money going to participating municipalities, such as North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach, would create $13.9 million in positive economic impact for the community.
“Thus, providing the money to the Participating Municipalities rather than the South Carolina Bar Foundation would have a significant economic impact in Horry County and would support more jobs, add more payroll, and increase total economic activity and economic benefit for all,” according to the judge’s ruling.
EASY MONEY, BIG DEALS, BAD GOVERNMENT
The City of Myrtle Beach is always chasing the big, colluded deal.
In lieu of managing the day to day affairs of the town, City Manager John Pedersen and Mayor Brenda Bethune continually attempt to hatch something clever.
Too much time is spent harassing their own downtown merchants.
Lawsuits abound against the city from their very own store owners.
The town’s brand continues to decline under this culture.
DIRTY STREETS, SHOOTINGS, SHOOTINGS
If the time and attention this town spent on quick dollar schemes were invested in managing the systems of city government, Myrtle Beach would be the best run city in America.
This was nothing less than a $6 million con game, exposed at the Supreme Court level.
City Manager John Pedersen retires soon, but not soon enough.