Myrtle Beach rejects near-deal with Horry Co. on tax fees over attorney costs

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HORRY CO, SC (WBTW) – The City of Myrtle Beach has rejected a change made by the county to a deal that would end their feud over the hospitality tax fee.

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune made it clear in a Thursday morning meeting the city would not vote on Horry County’s proposed change to the deal. “County council does not intimidate us with their poor demeanor, their tactics and their bullying,” Bethune said. “We are not intimidated.”

Horry County’s change to the deal was an amendment proposed on Monday that would not allow money from the tax fee to be used toward attorney fees. Together, municipalities have paid nearly $900,000 in legal fees to fight this dispute about the hospital tax fee.

Bethune said the city and the county were on the same page until Monday night when Horry County council voted seven to five to change the settlement terms regarding attorney fees. The City of Conway decided Wednesday not to approve the deal. All other municipalities must vote to accept the new deal in order for a settlement to be reached.

“I have to wonder, and I think everybody else needs to ask themselves, did Horry County council ever intend to settle this dispute, and did they ever intend to help fund I-73,” Bethune said. The money from the hospitality tax is expected to help pay for the construction of SC 22 and I-73.

Myrtle Beach City attorney William Bryan says the settlement terms included giving the estimated $19 million Horry County already has collected back to the people and businesses that paid them.

A portion of that money would have also paid the attorneys who handled the case, which Bryan says is typical in a class-action lawsuit, but Horry County council voted to prevent that from happening Monday night.

According to Bryan, no city or county leader knows how much the attorney fees would cost should a settlement be reached, because a judge has yet to make that ruling. He says typically a judge will require the attorneys fees to be a certain percentage of the settlement fund.

Here are the legal fees each entity has spent as of early November:

  • Horry County: $198,279.74
  • Conway: $1,897
  • Myrtle Beach: $757,983.17
  • North Myrtle Beach: $108,583.25
  • Surfside Beach: $19,641.15

Horry County Government issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon in response to Myrtle Beach City’s refusal to vote on the change: “If the City Council of Myrtle Beach or other municipality’s elected officials had attended the mediation, they would know the real facts: There is no need for a class (action suit); There is no need to pay millions in attorney’s fees to Columbia lawyers, in fact, any lawyers.”

The county’s release said the county has never spent a single penny of the hospitality tax collected for any purpose other than those that benefit the people. The county said it built critical roads out of necessity with the money.

“We stand ready to continue to negotiate in good faith, as we have done, to reach an agreement that each and every participating municipality, including the City of Conway and the City of Loris, can support,” the county’s statement concluded.

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