Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and Myrtle Beach City Council held what amounted to a press conference this morning on the Hospitality Settlement Agreement. The settlement includes I-73 funding.
Conway refuses to sign – Deal Goes South
The City of Conway refused to sign the settlement agreement stating Highway 501, among others, needed flood protection at Lake Busbee before spending $100 million on flood proofing S.C. Highway 22.
On Monday night, Horry County Council added an amendment to the settlement, stating hospitality fees could not be used to pay the City of Myrtle Beach’s legal fees.
CLASS ACTION SUIT IS QUESTIONED?
The City of Myrtle Beach filed a class action lawsuit which they say should allow their attorneys to collect up to $7 million in legal fees.
However, earlier this year, the Horry County Treasurer (Angie Jones) sued, on behalf of Horry County, as can be seen in part just below and in full at the bottom of this article.
After Bethune’s statements, we reached out to the mayor as follows:
Thanks for your efforts today.
As I review your statements of today, “The funds do not belong to the municipalities but the class action group of business owners, locals and tourists who paid those funds“… this leaves me with the below questions:
The below is from a lawsuit filed by Horry County Treasurer, Angie Jones.
1. Ms. Jones’ lawyer states that no “Identifiable class” of residents and tourists exist in this class action suit.
2. The payment for joining the suit is $100 per tourist and resident… is this how you understand the class action?
3. Ms. Jones’ lawyer states that “if this is a class action lawsuit, the cities would be liable to return those funds to the residents and tourists who actually paid those funds.“
Neither Mayor Bethune, the city, nor their attorneys responded to our questions about the just below.
CITY RE-CLASSIFIES FUNDS AS ILLEGAL COLLECTIONS TO AVOID THE WORD TAX IN IT’S LAWSUIT
Per South Carolina code of laws Title 12: Taxation states: … a claim of action for the refund of taxes can not be brought as a class action lawsuit.
Mayor Bethune was careful to call the taxes “illegal collections” this morning at her press conference. Myrtle Beach Lawyer William Bryan Jr. correctly called the tax a uniform service fee. He stated a distinction exists between a uniform service fee and a tax.
Mrs. Bethune knows taxes can not be part of a class action lawsuit.
The Hospitality Tax covered $20 million annually for I-73 funding before the City of Myrtle Beach sued to kill that funding.
Having killed I-73 funding and losing the support of a key city member (Conway), the city of Myrtle Beach is left defending their attorney’s rights to collect $7 million in questionable “class action” legal fees.
Mrs. Bethune was quick to belittle Horry County Councilman Danny Hardee for calling this lawsuit B.S. and a sham. Lawyers we spoke with today called the suit murky. The prevailing thought remains that Myrtle Beach has no legal standing to even file the claim.
Regardless, the matter is now headed to the S.C. Supreme Court.