Pending election appeals delay seating of new council members in Atlantic Beach

akelley@thesunnews.comJanuary 1, 2014 

Former town councilwoman Gloria Jean Lance votes in Atlantic Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. There are two open seats and three candidates on the ballot. The ballot candidates are former mayor Retha Pierce, Mayor Jake Evans' brother Lenearl Evans and Kenneth McLaurin. McLaurin has lived in Atlantic Beach for three years and has served on the Wilmington, N.C., City Council. Two write-in candidates are Carolyn Cole and Windy Price. Photo by Janet Blackmon Morgan / jblackmon@thesunnews.com

JANET BLACKMON MORGAN — jblackmon@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

Newly elected councilmen in Atlantic Beach won’t be taking the oath of office as planned Monday.

Appeals of the election results by current councilwomen Windy Price and Carolyn Cole are pending and will prevent Kenneth McLaurin and Lenearl Evans from taking seats won in the Nov. 12 election, said Town Manager William Booker.

McLaurin and Evans won council seats with 72 and 68 votes, respectively. Cole and Price had seven and six votes, respectively, as write-in candidates.

Cole said the initial appeal to the South Carolina Supreme Court was denied, so it is now pending in the circuit court. Price, McLaurin and Evans could not be reached for comment.

It isn’t the first time an elected official was delayed from entering an office in the town. Most recently, Jake Evans waited about 13 months before he was able to pick up the gavel as mayor in July while election appeals by Price and former Mayor Retha Pierce played out in court over the governor-ordered May 2012 election.

“This is a pattern,” Booker said. “It is clearly a pattern at this point.”

Booker said Atlantic Beach residents he has spoken with are frustrated.

“All the citizens I’ve talked to tell me they are totally dissatisfied with Windy Price and Carolyn Cole and they showed it with the vote, clearly,” he said. “I think the citizens are hoping the court will see fit to let the people the citizens want to take office.”

Cole said she’s disappointed in the town and said it is time to consider dissolution.

“We hope for Atlantic Beach for the year 2014 that we can seriously look at what is in the best interest of the town,” she said. “I continue to say that may be not remaining a town. We may be simply too small and too petty to be a municipality.”

Cole said the town should consider becoming part of Horry County or North Myrtle Beach.

“Of course, it’s sad,” she said. “It’s very disappointing ... We did not do what our ancestors believed that we really should’ve been doing. Atlantic Beach didn’t live up to it’s potential.”

Booker said the appeals and the delay shouldn’t prevent the town from doing necessary business, but he was not aware of any major legislation Town Council expects to see in the next few months other than the budget, which must be adopted by the end of June.

Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381, or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_akelley.

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