Town Council and Mayor of Atlantic Beach: "Our residents deserve better"

Atlantic Beach town council met Monday night.

"The residents need to embrace this entire council. And know that we were voted in by the majority of the people whether you like one over the other," councilman Windy Price said.

The town of Atlantic Beach has continued to hit the headlines as council members fight. Monday night, the disagreement hit a new level.

The town's council right now, is split two to two. Mayor Retha Pierce and councilman Jake Evans seem to be on one side versus Mayor pro tem Carolyn Cole and councilwoman Windy Price.

"All of us deserve better than what we have gotten over the past 30 or so years," Carolyn Cole told Newschannel 15 Monday night. She added that because of all the infighting, the town might not deserve to keep its charter.

"I never thought I would say that as my history in this town as an activist, a town manager, and now as a councilman, especially sitting here. But there are 12 bullies that are bossing around the majority of the residents and the absentee land owners."

Infighting is nothing new in the town, but over the past three months the situation has seemed to escalate to the worst in recent history, some residents say.

"Whether it's one or two or thee of you on council, we got to stop it," Rosa Stanley told council at their meeting Monday.

"Y'all need to get y'all act together, you remind me of the romper room," Brynn Langely said.

Since January, the town overturned results from an election after accusations of voter fraud.

A finance meeting held on March 16th turned into a screaming match between Evans and Cole.

The four block town also sat covered in trash for two weeks in March because the town owed more than 5 thousand dollars to the company that removes it.

At Monday's meeting, it discussed that a Bikefest committee had been formed and was holding meetings without public notice, as required by South Carolina Freedom of Information Act law.

The mayor has also said she's been permanently locked out of town hall.

Monday, NewsChannel 15 received two separate meeting agendas, one from each side. The councilmen and Mayor spent the first 45 minutes of the meeting going back and forth just trying to decide how to combine the two.

"Don't you talk your way around and expect to get your way," Mayor Pierce told Cole at one point.

When asked if the town residents deserve better, Pierce replied, "Well of course they do. They don't trust outsiders and they don't trust each other."

There is supposed to be a fifth seat on council. That seat was left vacant and expected to be filled with an election in January, but that election was overturned after accusations of voter fraud.

"They definitely deserve better, and they voted that way, but the election commission didn't listen to what they said," councilman Jake Evans said.

Governor Nikki Haley ordered a new election in Atlantic Beach. Horry County will hold the election on May 22.

The Governor's Order states, "the Town of Atlantic Beach election controversies have reached the South Carolina Supreme Court on three prior occasions. These controversies have highlighted problems in the Town's electoral process such as: poll workers not following proper procedures for challenged ballots, voters being denied the right to vote despite establishing residency, and the Municipal Election Commission failing to comply with the statutory procedure for contesting election results."

It will cost the county about $1,000, according to Horry County spokesperson Lisa Bourcier.

Here are the candidates:

Mayor - Jake Evans

Retha Pierce

Windy Price

Council (2 at-large)

Josephine Isom

Monique Pointer

Charlene Taylor

Misty D. Umphries

James B. Van Fleet