Local paper takes “ethical” issues concerns about Downtown Alliance’s new hire.

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David Hucks
David Huckshttps://myrtlebeachsc.com
David Hucks is a 12th generation descendant of the area we now call Myrtle Beach, S.C. David attended Coastal Carolina University and like most of his family, has never left the area. David is the lead journalist at MyrtleBeachSC.com

The Myrtle Beach Sun News continues to take issues with the Myrtle Beach Downtown Alliance and it’s new taxpayer funded C.E.O., Jason Greene. Responses to a FOIA request only heightens the concerns the newspaper has.

While the Sun News operates locally under a paywall, the paper also works in conjunction with Yahoo News, who distributes their content for free.

McClatchy, the parent company of the Sun News historically receives $1 million annually from the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. The bold stance taken by the Sun News, shows a true commitment to journalism in an era where readers largely distrust legacy media.

In finding a new CEO, the Myrtle Beach Downtown Alliance Board of Directors used an unconventional hiring process, according to emails obtained by The Sun News.

To transform downtown Myrtle Beach, the local organization receives taxpayer funds.

Using business practices that would be considered unusual, the trove of emails reveals the well-connected influences that manipulated and controlled hiring.

The Myrtle Beach Downtown Alliance was launched in 2021 as a public-private partnership. It receives funding through a new special tax district that is expected to raise $14 million over the next decade.

Five takeaways from the 125 emails provided to the Sun News newspaper on May 19 can be found below. These are among the ethical issues the Sun News takes exceptions too.

The chairman and CEO recommended each other for top positions during the process

During the search for a new chairman for the downtown alliance’s governing board, Greene worked with One Grand Strand, the alliance’s parent nonprofit.

A March 20 email from Dan Sine, who was eventually selected for the position, to city and civic leaders adds some detail to the timeline.

In 2020, Sine served as president of the board of Habitat for Humanity of Horry County, which hired Greene to run the organization.

In December, Jason informed me that Clay (Brittain Jr.), representing the Executive Committee of OGS (executive committee of One Grand Strand), was looking for a new Chairperson for the MBDA EC and recommended me. Sine emailed fellow board members in January that Jason arranged a meeting with him, Clay and me to discuss the position.

Sine and Brittain Jr. then met privately three more times to discuss the imminent resignation of downtown alliance CEO Amy Barrett.

We discussed the departure of the current MBDA CEO and potential candidates without revealing their identities. Although I had some suspicions, Jason did not announce his candidacy for the CEO position until March 15, when he contacted back the (Habitat for Humanity of Horry County) President and me,” Sine wrote.

Press releases announced Greene’s hiring and Sine’s appointment to the downtown alliance’s board of directors on April 6.

As a result of a 14-1 board vote, Greene’s $180,000-a-year job became official on May 2.

Sine did not respond to a comment request from the Sun News on Monday.

A job candidate was given a cache of documents, including detailed financial information, by the CEO

As I reach out to my mentors and talk with my family about the role,” Greene asked Brittain Jr. on Feb. 24.

The request was as follows:

A memorandum of understanding between One Grand Strand, the downtown alliance, and the city

Job description for downtown alliance

Job descriptions and resumes of current staff

The list of employees expected to be hired

Budgets for the past two years and the current year

Audited financial statements for 2021 and 2022

Financial statement for January

Employee benefits offered by downtown alliance

Current, pending, or suspected legal action against the alliance

Brittain replied by email less than an hour later, “Will do.”.

A board member asked about legal issues, but was told not to worry

Several inquiries were made by Alliance board member William Miller on March 31 before a special meeting scheduled for April 4 to discuss Greene’s employment terms.

Greene’s salary was compared to Barrett’s and heads of “non-profit placemaking organizations” when Miller questioned how it was determined.

If my understanding is correct, the salary offered is a large percentage of the MBDA operating budget. It represents a third of what the MID (municipal improvement special tax district) is supposed to fund.” Miller wrote Sine. “Are there any government regulations, funding, or grants that may be at risk or are there policies dictating the CEO salary in relation to the total operating budget?

In addition, he wondered if an insurance rider was required for board members if Greene’s and Barrett’s salaries did not align.

Barrett made $160,000 with a $20,000 bonus potential when she became the alliance’s CEO following the withdrawal of a lead candidate. Greene’s salary came from HRS Inc., a Pittsburgh-based consultancy.

Since this 2021 search took place two years ago, this salary is within the range discussed with HRS and represents a 5 percent increase,” Sine responded to Miller. The difference between $160,000 and $180,000 is actually 12.5%.

Approximately 14% of the alliance’s $1.4 million budget for 2023-24 goes to Sine’s salary.

Sine wrote in his email that the compensation packages for Amy Barrett and Jason Greene are within the expected range, and the risk of MBDA being sued for the $20,000 discrepancy is minimal.

A Sun News opinion piece delayed Greene’s contract ratification meeting

Myrtle Beach nonprofit’s CEO hiring was a comically unethical process,” McClatchy opinion writer Isaac Bailey wrote April 16 following an article in the Sun News exploring potential conflicts of interest.

Sun News is owned by McClatchy.

The hiring process for the CEO of a Myrtle Beach nonprofit was comically unethical

The same day, Sine admitted to his executive board that the column led him to delay Greene’s contract ratification meeting.

In the email, he linked to Bailey’s piece while expressing confidence that Greene remained the ideal choice for the alliance.

‘I’m confident Jason will excel in his new role,’ Sine wrote.

The board’s response to the newspaper was criticized by a planning firm that has worked with the alliance since its inception

In that same April 16 email, Sine said he planned to speak with James Lima, principal of a New York-based planning and development agency, about the executive board’s response to The Sun News.

In that April 16 e-mail, Sine wrote, “He told Jason, Clay, and me that he would have handled the Board’s response to The Sun News differently. I want his insight.

On May 22, Sine declined to “respond publicly,” and Lima was unavailable for comment.

A public meeting will be held at the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce on May 25 at 9 a.m. to discuss Greene’s 100-day vision.

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