A new Atlantic Beach town councilman? Maybe or maybe not

The town of Atlantic Beach may - or may not - have a new town councilman, depending on whom you ask.

The town's election commission - or a group claiming to be its election commission - has declared that the one candidate for an open seat on the town council - if there was an open seat - was the winner.

That's according to one faction in town. But there are others who say none of that is actually valid.

Last August, the town council voted that Councilwoman Josephine Isom should forfeit her position on council for failing to do her job, apparently leaving an open seat.

But the town council never set an election to fill Isom's seat, so the town's Municipal Election Commission set its own date for an election: July 30 of this year.

But on June 3, before the election could take place, council voted to remove all three town election commission members.

"As a result, we have no body that has authority to conduct elections in the town of Atlantic Beach as of today," said Atlantic Beach town manager William Booker.

Booker and Mayor Jake Evans say there was no open seat on council.

But on June 20, then-Mayor Retha Pierce decided to rescind her vote on removing the election commission members, so the commission remained intact.

And even if she had not taken that action, one councilwoman says the election commission would still remain in place.

"By default, until another commission would have been appointed, that commission would have still been functional," said Councilwoman Carolyn Cole.

So Cole says it was completely correct for the still functional town election commission to meet on Monday and declare longtime resident and businessman John Sketers, the only candidate for the (disputed) open town council seat, as the winner.

After many years of disputes like this, Cole says she understands why people think Atlantic Beach is dysfunctional.

"We are a dysfunctional government. And hopefully by Mr. Sketers taking his seat, we will have the opportunity to now come together as a council body and explore what our options are with our neighbors," Cole said.

Cole says those options may include consolidation or annexation of the town by North Myrtle Beach or Horry County.

The next council meeting is August 5, when Sketers may - or may not - take his seat.