Horry council effort to gain Coast RTA chairman appointment fails

Horry County Councilman Gary Loftus, who was key in getting more county representatives on Coast RTA’s board of directors, almost got his way in getting a county-appointed board member as the agency’s new chairman.

The move would have given an Horry County Council appointee the chairmanship, and a little more control over the board.

Coast is lined up to get a new chairman of the board in July, which is determined by its bylaws. The bylaws also state that the vice chairman automatically assumes the role of chairman at the start of the next fiscal year.

Joe Lazzara is the current vice chairman and will replace Bernie Silverman, who will serve at the post until July 1.

Loftus, who also serves on the Coast RTA board, said it’s not a matter of personalities. It’s just that Silverman, who was appointed by legislators of Horry County, and Lazzara, who represents the city of Georgetown, come from entities that do not contribute financially to Coast RTA.

“There’s been some concern that three of the last four chairs have been from governmental entities that don’t contribute to Coast RTA in any way, shape or form, except the $4,000 we get from Conway,” Loftus said. “That has created some angst among some, and we got to fix that.”

Horry County gives Coast RTA $1.05 million annually. Myrtle Beach is the second highest contributor to Coast at $365,000 annually, with Georgetown County contributing $220,000 annually. Conway rounds out the local contributors with $4,000 annually.

Loftus made a motion at Coast’s meeting Wednesday to suspend the bylaws that would put Lazzara automatically in the chairman’s position. The motion was seconded and received five ‘yes’ votes: Three from the county’s representatives of Loftus, Johnny Vaught and Robert Sheehan, one from Myrtle Beach representative Mickey James and one from Chuck Ottwell, one of the local delegation’s appointees. The remaining five members voted against the motion, which resulted in a 5-5 tie. According to state law, a tie means the motion does not pass.

Loftus, with the council’s backing, fought for about two years to get more county-appointed representatives other than just himself on Coast’s board in an effort to have better oversight of where the county’s annual contribution was going. The county eventually received two more seats on the board.

Last month, County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus announced he would be pulling Vaught and Loftus, both councilmen, off Coast’s board in an effort to avoid any conflict of interest accusations, even though the state and County Attorney Arrigo Carotti determined their serving on the council and Coast’s board was legal.

If Loftus’ motion had passed, that would have put board newcomer Sheehan in line for the chairman’s position. Sheehan was approved as the board’s vice chairman.

Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or on Twitter @TSN_JRodriguez.

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