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Legislature: Aeronautics appointee withdraws after attacks Cleary calls political

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

A recent dispute over an appointment to the state Aeronautics Commission should have been fixed “quietly, without embarrassing anybody,” said state Sen. Ray Cleary.

Instead, it resulted in public quarreling, which could ultimately hurt Georgetown County, according to Cleary.

The county will now have to fight other counties in the 1st Congressional District to get a local representative appointed to the commission, he said.

The controversy started after Howard Barnard III, a Surfside Beach resident and former Horry County Council member was appointed to the commission this month to replace Bill McKown, whose term expired earlier this year.

As word of Barnard’s appointment spread, area residents complained he wasn’t eligible because his predecessor was also from Horry County. No county within the district is supposed to have a resident commission member for more than one consecutive term, according to state law.

Complaints prompted state Rep. Kevin Ryan to get involved, searching for ways to have Barnard removed.

Sources close to Barnard said he resigned Monday.

Barnard refused to comment on the appointment or his resignation.

Cleary said Wednesday he had not received notice that Barnard was stepping down.

An official with the Aeronautics Commission said the resignation would have gone to the agency’s executive director. But the executive director was out of town this week.

Barnard is the second nominee Cleary backed for an appointed position who has bowed out this year, following Dave Jolliff, who withdrew his name as a candidate for Murrells Inlet magistrate in March following a three-month controversy.

“This shouldn’t have been a big deal,” Cleary said. “We can easily fix it and we will.

“The really sad thing is that Mr. Barnard has impeccable credentials,” he added.

Barnard worked on a new highway crossing the Waccamaw River and developed relationships with several Georgetown County officials. He served as squadron commander of the 356 Tactical Fighter Squadron at the Air Force base in Myrtle Beach and developed good relationships with members of Congress in that role.

“With his experience and connections, we could have had an unbelievable airport in Georgetown County,” Cleary said. “Now we’re fighting Charleston County [for the appointment]. This would have been a lot easier without the accusations.”

Opponents of Barnard’s appointment claimed Cleary and McKown misled people about McKown’s county of residence and a complaint was filed with the state ethics commission last week alleging that McKown falsified his legal address to be eligible to serve on the commission. As an Horry County resident, he shoudn’t have been appointed, because Mike Marlowe, who served before him, also lived in Horry County.

“No one tried to mislead anyone,” McKown said this week, adding that questions about which county he lived in never came up during his appointment or his service. The application he filed with the S.C. Secretary of State’s office “clearly showed a Surfside Beach address,” he said.

“No one ever challenged this until four years later,” McKown said. He blames politics and problems some people have with Cleary and Barnard for the fact it has become an issue.

“I’ve been unfairly dragged into it,” he said. “I didn’t apply for any position. They asked me to serve, then I filled out the paperwork and put down the correct information.”

He was approached about joining the commission by Rep. Liston Barfield.

McKown believes the misunderstanding about his residency results from the fact that he did live in Georgetown County for more than a year shortly before he was appointed. He lived in a house in Garden City in 2006 and part of 2005, and still owns three parcels in the county.

Cleary knew he had lived in the Garden City house and McKown said he assumes Cleary didn’t realize he had moved.

As late as last week Cleary said he and others in the legislature when McKown was appointed believed he was a Georgetown County resident at the time of the appointment in 2007.

“I had been to his house on Pompano Drive,” Cleary said.

Even if McKown lived in Georgetown County when he was appointed and moved to Horry County shortly after, it would still be a problem. “The perception is still he was basically an Horry County person,” Cleary said.

In a letter to the editor this week, Cleary pointed out that no one expressed an interest in serving on the commission and there was no concern about Barnard’s eligibility by any other member of the 1st District delegation until after Barnard was elected.

Cleary questioned why Ryan didn’t raise concerns about Barnard as a candidate before voting for him.

Cleary and Rep. Nelson Hardwick were the only members of the 1st District delegation at the meeting where Barnard was elected. Other legislators, including Ryan, cast votes by proxy. However, Ryan later said he was unaware he was casting a vote when he signed the letter.

In comments Ryan made about the election of Barnard, Cleary claimed Ryan “and his handlers” were attempting to “embarrass and discredit” him as he gets closer to an election year.

Ryan said he was simply doing his job.

“I’m looking out for the best interests of my constituents,” he said. “People are getting riled up because I’m looking into things and people are saying I’m going against traditions. None of the constituents care what the traditions are. Obviously the system is broken and I think that’s why I was sent here — to fix it.”

He said he will continue to push for transparency in the appointment process and encourage legislators to advertise the commission vacancy and carefully consider all the candidates.

Ryan said Cleary is trying to redirect the focus from himself by questioning his position on the appointment.

“He is the one who needs to be answering questions,” Ryan said.

As for his “handlers,” he said, “the only ‘handlers’ I have are the approximately 35,000 people who live in House District 108 ... I will continue to do what I believe is right, regardless of the political repercussions.”

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