Local Investigative Journalist Paul Gable, of the GrandStrandDaily.com, is suing Horry County. Gable is a well known and highly regarded local journalist who has actively covered the lawsuit case between Horry County Treasurer, Angie Jones, and Horry County.
Jones chose to drop that case this past Spring. On May 3rd, Gable reached out to Horry County with a Freedom Of Information Request (FOIA) inquiring as to how much the county spent defending the case. Gable also asked for the closing documents for the purchase by Horry County of 3,7129 acres of land off of International Drive.
The county responded by email on May 17th. The county claims the amount of money spent by the county on the defense of the Angie Jones Litigation was “not covered under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act.” The request was denied.
Gable then sent an inquiry as to the legal basis for the County’s decision. In his legal complaint, Gable states the County never responded to that request.
Gable’s legal argument states: The essential purpose of FOIA is to protect the public from secret government activity. Lambries v. Saluda County Council, 409 S.C. 1, 760 S.E.2d 785, 789 (2014); Seago v. Horry County, 378 S.C. 414, 663 S.E.2d 38 (2008).
Among other provisions, FOIA requires a Public Body that would deny a FOIA request to provide the legal basis for the denial of the request. S.C. Code Ann. §30-4-30(C) (Supp. 2018).
Here, the County has refused the Plaintiff’s FOIA request and has refused to provide a basis for its actions, which is also required by the statute.
The Plaintiff would allege and will show this Court that the information he seeks is not legally privileged, is not exempt from disclosure under FOIA, and that it is important to the public interest that this information be available to the citizens and taxpayers of Horry County.
Paul Gable has contributed several high profile articles to our news team. We will keep Horry County residents informed as this matter proceeds.