The Honorable William H. Seals, Jr. ruled against the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber Of Commerce’s request to have the word “Cronies” removed from the complaint filed by Myrtle Beach resident Karon Mitchell. His ruling stands that the companies are, in fact, crony companies.
Last April, Karon Mitchell filed the suit against the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Myrtle Beach. The filing argues the chamber directed money to businesses started by former Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce employees, which the suit calls “crony companies.” Those businesses received money for “unsubstantiated goods” and marked-up service prices, the suit says.
In court yesterday, the Chamber’s Attorney, Henrietta Golding argued that the seven Myrtle Beach Area Chamber funded companies had no way to defend their own reputations. Golding’s argument lacked standing, however, as she has not been hired to represent those seven companies.
Mitchell’s lawsuit claims those companies were given an advantage with insider information and influence with the Chamber and that blocked other businesses from the possible jobs. Contracts were awarded without a bidding process that is typical when firms use tax payer monies.
Over 46 percent of the total expenditures from tax monies received by MBACC, the lawsuit says, were paid to the below companies.
The lawsuit lists out each of the companies stating:
- Visibility and Conversions, LLC was formed by a former employee of the Chamber. They were given more than $60 million over the past seven years from the Chamber for internet marketing and other advertising, according to the lawsuit.
- Com-Connect, LLC was formed by a former employee of the Chamber. The lawsuit states they were given “inquiry fulfillment” and were paid $952,690 over the past three years.
- Right Analytics, LLC was formed by a former employee of the Chamber. The lawsuit states they were paid $82,881 in the last year for “research.”
- Miller Direct, Inc – The lawsuit claims it was paid $1.3 million in the last three years for promotions.
- Visual Destinations, LLC was formed by an unknown person, but the office is in Surfside Beach. The lawsuit claims it was paid $269,915 in the last three years for website services.
- Brandon Advertising, Inc. was formed by the former director of the Chamber. The lawsuit claims it was paid $3 million in the last three years.
- Fuel Interactive, LLC was formed by the former director of the Chamber. The lawsuit claims it was paid $703,697 in the last three years.
The lawsuit states that the chamber has failed to provide any information regarding the amount of TDF funds received from the city on a quarterly basis, that they failed to comply with procurement laws, and that they funneled taxpayer money through crony companies to avoid adverse tax consequences.
The case now heads to court with the word “Crony” as a central, defining context of the legal action.