Municipalities have spent $888K in legal fees over hospitality tax battle

Grand Strand

HORRY CO, SC (WBTW) – Attorney fees have been adding up in Horry County’s legal battle with local municipalities over the hospitality tax.

The City of Myrtle Beach has spent $757,983 on the legal fight so far, News13 learned on Thursday.

Earlier in the week, an Horry County councilman railed against attorney fees caused by the hospitality tax battle, which he suggested could be around $7 million for municipalities if the legal dispute escalated.

“I will not be a party to paying attorney fees to the tune of $7 million, plus or minus,” Councilman Harold Worley said at Tuesday night’s meeting. “I am not voting for it. And I’ll tell you this, if anybody on this council votes for it you will be thrown out of office.”

Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught told News13 Thursday night that he estimated the county’s current attorney fees at about $375,000, but that could change depending on what happens in the dispute.

Other municipalities in the county also have spent money on legal costs over the hospitality tax fee. North Myrtle Beach has spent $108,583 so far; Surfside Beach has spent $19,641 and the city of Conway has spent $1,897.

Councilman Harold Worley said at Tuesday night’s council meeting those fees are now part of the mediation going on in executive sessions. Combined, the local municipalities have spent about $888,104.

The mediation began after the City of Myrtle Beach filed a lawsuit against Horry County, claiming the county had been illegally collecting “tens of millions of dollars per year” through the hospitality fee for building the proposed I-73. Governor Henry McMaster put pressure on both sides to solve the issue. 

“The only argument all along has been what? Attorney fees!” Worley said. Worley walked out of the meeting and was not a part of the executive session where members discussed the mediation.

Chairman Johnny Gardner said any information regarding legal fees is just speculation at this time. He believes officials will present the written documents to council in an executive session at their next meeting on Nov. 19. Then, they will vote on the deal.

Details will not be available to the public until the deal goes before a judge, Gardner said, which could be in December.

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