Horry County Council votes to accept separation package for Chris Eldridge

Grand Strand

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County will be looking for a new administrator, after county council approved a separation package for administrator Chris Eldridge on Tuesday.

Horry County Council voted 9-2 in favor of accepting a severance package for Eldridge. The terms of the deal weren’t available due to a nondisclosure agreement.

Council member Tyler Servant, who represents Surfside Beach, nearly revealed some information when explaining why he was one of two council members to vote against the severance package.

“We need to move in a different direction with the administrator, but where I disagree is a close to 300,000,” said Servant.

Council chair Johnny Gardner interrupted Servant.

“Hold on a second,” Gardner said. “You can’t go into stuff that was in executive session.”

Dennis DiSabato, who’s a council member representing Myrtle Beach, also responded.

“Yeah, and there’s an NDA,” DiSabato said.

“Ok,” Servant said, before the vote was taken.

Eldridge’s job status was first questioned back in December when SLED investigated a claim of an extortion attempt against one of Gardner’s associates. No charges were filed and several council members criticized Eldridge for mishandling the claim.

In March, council voted on a motion to terminate Eldridge’s contract. The vote was tied 6-6, meaning the motion failed. News13 also reported in January that council had drafted a motion to suspend Eldridge with pay following a SLED investigation into extortion claims.

In a letter to council in January, Eldridge requested any conversations about his employment with the city be held in open session.

Gardner was the only one on council to abstain from voting on Eldridge’s deal at Tuesday’s meeting. He says he wanted to leave the decision up to the other council members.

Council member Johnny Vaught, who represents the Forestbrook area, says Eldridge had to be let go since the working relationship between Eldridge and Gardner has fallen apart.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of choice in that if the two cannot work together, and that’s been proven that they cannot work together, so I think this is the best solution for the county,” said Vaught.

Gardner also says an interim county administrator is expected to be announced Wednesday.

Vaught says a firm will likely be hired to conduct a national search for a permanent administrator.

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