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Locked on administrator vote, Horry County Council punts (with video)

Horry County is still without a permanent administrator after two convoluted votes by Horry County Council Tuesday night.

The council deadlocked in a 6-6 vote on whether to hire interim administrator and county attorney John Weaver, and then voted unanimously to begin contract negotiations with Weaver before deciding whether to offer him the position. The change in procedure means that Weaver has not been offered the job. An ad-hoc committee of council members will negotiate with Weaver over his requirements for a contract and bring a proposed version to the full council for a vote.

The normal procedure for hiring an administrator would start with an offer of the job to a candidate, followed by contract negotiations with the council's administration committee. If an agreement could not be reached, then the candidate could turn down the job, deputy county attorney Arrigo Carotti explained during the meeting.

An ad-hoc committee of Chairwoman Liz Gilland and Councilmen Paul Prince, Gary Loftus and Carl Schwartzkopf will instead negotiate a contract with Weaver and bring it to the full council for a vote, at which time Weaver would be offered the job only if an acceptable contract was reached.

Gilland said the difference in the two procedures is that the six council members who had some reservations about hiring Weaver would maintain power in the decision after Tuesday's vote. Gilland said that with the administration committee as the negotiating arm for the county, the balance would have been tipped toward Weaver because three members of that committee voted for him during both finalist votes.

"It ended up on a roll call vote, being a 6-6 tie again because at issue was the contract. Most of us have been made aware of what John Weaver wants in his contract and we assumed that six members of council were fine with that, but six members of council weren't," she said. "I think at issue was the feeling of some council members that the way it was if you select Weaver as your administrator and then negotiate a contract, that Weaver had the upper hand, and if you do it this way and figure out what the contract is first and then offer it to him, then it's more what the council wants."

Councilman Howard Barnard, who voted for Weaver, said he felt the processes were essentially the same, saying in either case Weaver or the council could turn down the contract and the process would begin again.

Weaver declined to comment Tuesday night, but said during his finalist interviews that he would not accept the position without a contract. Weaver said at that time he wanted a three-year contract and a salary of about $167,000. During his interview, several council members asked Weaver whether he would be willing to accept the position with a lesser contract, to which he responded no.

Tuesday's vote extends a process that has taken several unexpected turns and almost a year since former administrator Danny Knight left in May. If the contract negotiations fail, the council would either ask the other finalist, former Oconee County administrator Dale Surrett, to negotiate a potential contract or start a third round of the search with new candidates.

The negotiations will be closed to the public because the discussion will center on employment contract negotiations. Weaver will remain interim administrator throughout the negotiations process. His interim contract expires in May.