It’s been more than two years since county officials decided to do away with a key job overseeing the police department and other public safety agencies -- an effort to save money while using some of the funds to give the county administrator a raise.
But the Horry County Council has now decided to fill that position and pay the new assistant county administrator for public service a salary of $135,000.
Does that mean County Administrator Chris Eldridge will get to keep the substantial raise that was funded by the elimination of the position?
“Oh yeah,” said Mark Lazarus, Horry County Council chairman.
“We never really took that money out of the budget, so it’s there, has been there the whole time, anyway. So, we’ve carried it forward,” Lazarus said.
Eldridge was paid $185,400 in the previous fiscal year that includes the raise of nearly $28,000 since the public safety position was eliminated in late 2014 and Eldridge assumed those duties.
Lazarus denied that the position was reopened as a result of several civil lawsuits pending against the police department, including one case settled last week for an undisclosed amount with a woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by a former detective.
A grand jury convened by the state attorney general indicted four former officers on various charges in September including Allen Large, Daryl Williams, Todd Cox and Luke Green after a nearly year-long investigation by the S.C. Law Enforcement Division.
Large faces five charges of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, and is also the target of four remaining lawsuits against the police department that accuse him of sexually assaulting or harassing four women whose cases he was assigned to investigate.
Williams was indicted on nine counts of misconduct in office, Cox faces 16 counts of misconduct in office and Green was indicted for three counts of misconduct in office.
Lazarus said the new public safety official will oversee the police, fire and emergency management officials.
According to the job description, the new assistant administrator will direct management, planning, budgeting and daily operations, as well as coordinate “county functions with multiple elected and appointed offices.”
“As our public safety initiatives grow and ... more issues that are coming up, especially like right now we’re fighting this heroin problem, things like that, this individual will be involved tremendously in that as we look at ways to address and attack those issues we have facing us,” Lazarus said.
The position has been vacant since Paul Whitten resigned in September 2014. Eldridge absorbed those responsibilities and reorganized the public safety division.