This story has been updated.
Ethics forms filed last month show three Myrtle Beach City Council members received free concert tickets to the Carolina Country Music Festival, an event that recently was granted thousands in tax dollars in addition to thousands of dollars of city services.
The council members, Phil Render , Randal Wallace and Mary Jeffcoat, said that the tickets did not affect a recent vote to grant $75,000 in A-tax money to the event, which drew 25,000 people last year.
Jeffcoat reported a gift worth $298 and said event planner Palmetto Event Productions gave her two multi-day tickets last year. Render received a gift worth $716, which he said amounted to four one-day passes. His were also given by Palmetto Event Productions.
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“I didn’t even use the tickets,” Jeffcoat said. “Out of an abundance of caution, I disclosed it.”
Render also said he was unaffected by the tickets and that “sunshine is a good sterilizing agent.”
Councilman Randal Wallace called The Sun News on Monday evening after reading an earlier version of this article to say that he also received a one-day ticket.
He said he forgot to list the gift because he almost missed the event after the death of a family member last year.
“It’s a community event, and they invited us,” Wallace said. “You want to go see how events are going.”
Wallace’s ethics filings were updated Monday and reflected the ticket, which he valued at $99.
During budget discussions, Jeffcoat was critical of giving thousands to a for-profit group. But Render said Monday he felt A-tax grants should be given based on how many visitors an event or group brings to the area. Render, Jeffcoat and Wallace all ultimately voted in favor of the appropriation, which was grouped with several other A-tax grants in a measure last week.
The council members reported the concert tickets in Statement of Economic Interests filings, which must be submitted annually to the S.C. Ethics Commission by public officials around the state. There is a $100 penalty for failing to file.
All members of Myrtle Beach City Council, including Mayor John Rhodes, filed their forms in the appropriate time-frame this year. The forms can be amended and detail public and private income, gifts, and other financial matters from Jan. 1, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2016.
Filing rules changed this year, however, catching a few officials off guard. Filers now have to disclose the source, though not the amount, of private income.
Councilmen Mike Lowder and Mike Chestnut both failed to report revenue from their private jobs in their initial reports.
“I didn’t know we were supposed to,” said Chestnut, who owns and operates a well-known restaurant — Big Mike’s Soulfood. “I guess I’ll have to go back and do an amended report.”
Lowder works at a private security company, Phoenix Security Solutions. He said he too was unfamiliar with the requirement to report sources of private income.
“I have not been made aware of that and I don’t have any problem reporting that I’m the head of a security company in Myrtle Beach,” he said in a phone conversation Friday. “It’s no big secret.”
On Tuesday, Lowder filed an amendment including Phoenix Security Solutions in his report. His company’s website indicates that it employs “over 150 security & investigative employees in Myrtle Beach.”
Wallace also updated his filings on Friday, before he spoke with The Sun News, to report that he made revenue from a rental property that was not mentioned initially.
Additionally, Wallace reported a handful of gifts, including $450 in tickets to the Beach Ball Classic, which is run by Rhodes, the mayor. The event received $50,000 in A-tax funding this year.
Wallace also reported a $175 ticket to a gala with the S.C. Business Hall of Fame.
Councilman Wayne Gray did not list any gifts, but did list two companies owned by him and, he said, his wife — SWS Management Co. and SWS Enterprises, Inc.
“They’re just companies that I own. One of them is a management company and the other one, actually, my wife owns, SWS Enterprises. It formerly was an entity that owned a restaurant, and it doesn’t own it any more,” Gray said. “We’re in the process of dissolving some of those.”
The companies also are listed as the donors for some intermittent political contributions dating back to 2008, and Gray confirmed that the corporate entities had made donations.
Most recently, SWS Enterprises was listed as the donor of $250 to State Sen. Luke Rankin last May.
Gray, who faces reelection this year, has also begun to report campaign finances. According to his filings, he has received one $1,000 donation so far, from Sea Crest Inc. on July 28, 2016.
The company owns the Sea Crest Oceanfront Resort at 803 S. Ocean Blvd., according to Horry County land records.