Re "A Second Opinion," May 15 editorial:
As the retiring city manager in North Myrtle Beach, I am saddened by the continuing effort of The Sun News to discredit and disparage this city.
I am disturbed by the editorial's continuing implication that the city's response to the tragic fire in the Barefoot community was followed by "a pattern of disingenuous responses," which "led to the discovery of a deeply entrenched culture of patronage, favoritism and at-all-costs self-preservation within its administration."
Following the fire, I personally commented to The Sun News that we had certainly played this event over and over trying to learn from it and see how we could have done things differently. The city called for an independent review of the fire by the Barefoot Fire Task Force, which publicly discussed its findings and subsequently led to a series of changes in this city's operations due to the task force recommendations. I don't believe anyone with the city ever said our response to the fire was "above reproach." We have said, however, that as events unfolded that night, that we did the best job we could despite the unfortunate and destructive turn of events.
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The city responded to all requests for information and tried its best to make sure correct information was published or reported, which sometimes was not the case. If that attempt at accuracy is seen, as it has been reported, as "circling the wagons," then I must disagree. I have constantly worked with staff to ensure that we answered inquiries and requests for information as timely as possible.
The study by the S.C. Institute for Public Service and Policy was done at my request. Certainly it was in response to feedback from employees in the Public Safety Department, as well as a concern by the City Council that we look into the accusations and negative press the city received because of personnel actions within the department. I thought I made it clear in my comments accompanying the release of the report that it will be "heeded." It will in many ways be a primer for the new city manager and public safety director concerning the many issues they will need to address as they move forward in their respective roles.
As for the use of the Mercer Group for the search for city manager and public safety director, please be aware that the Mercer Group and Jim Mercer were recommended by me and other management officials when we first contracted with him in 1998, following the departure of City Manager A. William Moss. The Mercer Group was used again in 2003 following the retirement of City Manager John Smith.
I also used the Mercer firm in the hiring of the assistant city manager and public safety director. I recommended to the current City Council that they continue to use the Mercer firm for the current searches.
I believe that Jim Mercer will work with all of the City Council to provide a list of candidates from which they can make a decision on a new manager for this city. I trust in their ability to do this because that is their responsibility.
Lastly, I am outraged that The Sun News characterizes our city as "deeply rotten city government" and that you also state that integrity must be restored "to this troubled city government."
I have spent 30 years with this city. I have worked with some of the best city managers a city could ever ask for. I have also worked with city councils and city employees who truly have made a commitment to excellence. Integrity has always been a virtue not only sought after but demanded by me. If you followed the events in this city and looked at what we have accomplished, there is no doubt that there is much to be proud of and much more to do before we can rest.
I pray that somehow The Sun News will overcome its penchant to destroy this community, and instead work with it to accomplish the vision and goals that the citizens and City Council have for this city. I will be here to help in any way I can.
The writer is North Myrtle Beach city manager.