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Legislature: Delegation can't agree on meeting to mend fences

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County’s legislative delegation is set to meet next week in Murrells Inlet, but it might have to do so without one of its four members, state Rep. Kevin Ryan.

The meeting was originally scheduled to take place last week in Columbia, but Ryan told members he wouldn’t attend, though it had been arranged to accommodate Ryan’s schedule, according to Rep. Carl Anderson.

Ryan questioned the validity of the meeting as well as why it wasn’t set to take place in Georgetown County where constituents could easily attend.

Though the venue changed, its purpose is still suspect, according to Ryan.

“This meeting is nothing more than an attempt by Sen. [Ray] Cleary to divert attention from himself and to distract from real issues,” Ryan said. “Our recent disagreements over a state Aeronautics Commission appointment and redistricting have nothing to do with delegation-related functions, thus a meeting of the county legislative delegation seems inappropriate and it is unlikely that I will attend.”

Anderson said he thinks Ryan is trying to make Cleary look bad.

Cleary took heat from some constituents last month after an appointment to the state Aeronautics Commission became controversial.

Howard Barnard III of Surfside Beach, a candidate supported by Cleary, was appointed to replace Bill McKown, who also lives in Surfside Beach, to represent the 1st Congressional District. State law says no county within the district is supposed to have a resident commission member for more than one consecutive term.

Cleary said he believed McKown was a Georgetown County resident when he was appointed. Ryan voted for Barnard by proxy, but after questions about McKown’s residency came up, he started looking for ways to have Barnard removed and make the appointment process more transparent.

Barnard has since resigned, but Cleary and Ryan remained at odds over the issue.

Ryan and Anderson also locked horns recently over a redistricting issue.

Those incidents are evidence of a communication problem within the delegation, according to Cleary. Infighting and lack of communication are hurting the members’ ability to work together for the county, he said.

Anderson said Ryan is at the root of the problems.

He and Cleary hoped to begin addressing communication issues, as well as how to handle appointments to boards and commissions in the future, at the meeting in Columbia, they said.

But that could prove difficult without Ryan.

The delegation usually meets in Georgetown when the members aren’t in session in Columbia, but next week’s meeting was scheduled for Murrells Inlet because members of the delegation want to attend a ceremony to honor one of the community’s late residents, Mickey Spillane.

Spillane, creator of the private eye Mike Hammer, died in July 2006 and plans to name part of Business 17 in his honor have been in the works ever since.

Delegation members plan to go from the meeting, which starts at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Murrells Inlet Community Center, straight to the dedication at 5 p.m.

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Cleary and Ryan have both opted to take a back seat in finding a new Aeronautics Commission appointee after the controversy with Barnard, leaving it to Anderson and Sen. Yancey McGill of Kingstree.

Anderson planned to announce a Georgetown County nominee to represent the 1st Congressional District on the commission following the meeting last week, but the announcement was postponed with the meeting. Anderson said he wants to talk about it with the delegation before naming his candidate.

“I think each of us would be satisfied with him,” Anderson said of the nominee. “That’s all I can say right now.”

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