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Legislature: Ryan balks at Cleary appointment

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

State Rep. Kevin Ryan wants the newest member of the state Aeronautics Commission removed, “but at this point I think it would probably take a lawsuit,” he said Wednesday.

Howard Barnard III, an Horry County resident, should not be allowed to represent the 1st Congressional District on the commission because his predecessor, Bill McKown, lived in Horry County, Ryan said.

No county within the district is supposed to have a resident commission member for more than one consecutive term, according to state law.

S.C. Sen. Ray Cleary says McKown lived in Georgetown County when he was appointed. Cleary nominated Barnard for the post. But others, including Ryan, question if the Garden City address listed on McKown’s application was really his primary residence.

“I don’t care what the initial paperwork said. Looking over everything, I’m of the opinion he lived in Horry County when he was appointed,” Ryan said.

Barnard officially became part of the commission on Tuesday. Legislators from the five counties in the district, including Ryan, signed off on the appointment earlier this month, but Ryan said he didn’t realize that’s what he was doing when he signed a proxy allowing his vote to be cast for Barnard.

He and “quite a few” other members of the 1st District delegation thought they were signing letters of support for Barnard, Ryan said.

Minutes of the June 1 meeting show only Cleary and Rep. Nelson Hardwick were present at the meeting where Barnard was appointed. All other votes were cast by proxy.

It was after hearing questions raised about whether Barnard meets residency requirements that Ryan said he became concerned about the appointment.

McKown, who was Cleary’s business partner, said he lived in Georgetown County for two years before moving back to Surfside Beach. But he was listed as a Surfside Beach Town Council member during the time he was appointed.

McKown had given up his position on the council and didn’t run for re-election because he had moved, according to Cleary.

Ryan isn’t convinced and neither are some of his constituents.

“I’ve heard from people who are enraged about this and with very good reason,” Ryan said.

The situation with Barnard “speaks to the larger issue of how boards and commissions are appointed,” Ryan said, and that’s something he plans to address.

He wants to see positions advertised when they come open and have candidates discussed by the delegation instead of “rubber stamping” appointments.

The law also needs to be addressed to ensure appointments to commissions shared by multiple counties actually live in the county they represent throughout their term.

After appointment, aeronautics commission members are only required to live in the 1st District.

Regardless of where he lived for the majority of his term, Cleary said McKown was an excellent representative for Georgetown and Horry counties.

“Whenever anybody on the Georgetown delegation asked him for anything, he was Johnny on the spot,” Cleary said. “There’s a list of things he did for the Georgetown airport.”

He’s sure Barnard will follow suit.

Cleary said no one contacted him to express an interest in replacing McKown.

“I picked Mr. Barnard for several reasons, including that he has a strong relationship with Georgetown County residents based on the work he did with the Southern Evacuation Life,” Cleary said. “He’s not a stranger.”

Georgetown County Council Member Jerry Oakley said he thinks Barnard will do an excellent job, though he would have preferred a Georgetown County resident in the seat. County Administrator Sel Hemingway said he isn’t concerned about which county the commission member lives in and believes the county will be well represented either way.

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