Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones could drop her suit against Horry County over a lack of funding for her office after a vote following executive session Tuesday night, according to councilor Johnny Vaught.
Vaught said council voted Tuesday to give County Administrator Chris Eldridge certain instructions after receiving legal guidance in executive session, but that he couldn't give details on the instructions.
Bill Howard was the only county councilor who voted again
"If the settlement offer that she made is accepted by councilmen, there will be no conditions," Vaught said. "She made the proposal to drop her lawsuit if we drop ours."
Vaught said the settlement offer did not include stipulations concerning funding for the treasurer's office.
"She made the offer that was not contingent on funding or anything. She said she will 'drop my suit against you if you drop your suit against me,'" Vaught said, referring to the initial suit and following counter claim made by the county.
Vaught said he couldn't provide any further details.
Jones said she couldn't comment.
"As of right now, I have no comment on pending litigation," Jones said.
In her capacity as Horry County treasurer and as an individual, Jones filed the suit in November against Horry County and Chris Eldridge in his capacity as county administrator.
The lawsuit said Jones’ office processes over 600,000 tax notices and $500 million in tax refunds each year, but her office has “historically been understaffed” by the county with 13 employees covering four offices.
When she took office in July, Jones said, there were almost $2 million in tax refunds that hadn’t been sent out.
Jones’ suit claimed that employees were unable to take lunch breaks due to lack of staff, and three satellite offices were being closed from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in order for employees to eat lunch.
In the suit, Jones asked the county to “immediately fund her office as long as her requests are reasonable and necessary,” citing state law that “vests in elected officials the authority to employee and discharge the county personnel within their departments.”
The county hasn't passed its final budget, which must be approved by the end of June.
In an Aug. 1 email to Jones’ attorney Gene Connell, Horry County attorney Arrigo Carotti said Jones’ office was sufficiently funded.
In previous interviews with The Sun News, Jones said her operations budget was cut after she was elected in November but before she took office in July.
Assistant county administrator Justin Powell confirmed to The Sun News in October that the operations budget for the treasurer’s office was cut at the request of former treasurer Roddy Dickinson.
In a response, Horry County blamed Jones’ lack of funding on her mishandling of the office, and blamed her for running a deficit by hiring more people than were previously employed, including friends and political supporters. At the time, Jones said she only hired people with qualifications and experience.
“As a result of Jones failing to fulfill her duties and responsibilities and interfering and attempting to disregard the exclusive authority of Horry County to make and implement yearly budgets, she should personally be held responsible for the deficit she created,” the county said in its response.
Jones also asked for a court order to put the hospitality fees and business license departments back under the authority of the treasurer’s office, which the suit claimed were part of Jones’ constitutional duties as treasurer.
The suit claimed that control of the business license department was taken away from the treasurer’s office without her knowledge after she was elected and that the county did not have legal standing to alter the duties of the treasurer under South Carolina state law.