Surfside Beach

Did a Surfside Beach business owner and elected official get special treatment from the Surfside Beach town administrator?

The business owner says he hasn’t a clue about any special treatment coming his way. Anything that was done or said was coming strictly from folks in Surfside Beach, not him.

In a series of emails to and from Surfside Beach administrator Micki Fellner and former planning director Sabrina Morris, Fellner said she wanted to delay following up on code violations to Wild Water and Wheels amusement park until after the current season.

According to one email, Morris told Fellner that she had met with building inspector Mike Farria and had expressed Fellner’s concerns from an Aug. 4 meeting that issuing violations during the summer would be poor timing and that Morris would meet with owner Mark Lazarus after the season ends to discuss the issue and ask for an inspection letter from an engineering firm.

That email is dated Aug. 16, 2017 at 11:36 a.m.

Lazarus is the Horry County Council chairman and his family owns the amusement park on Highway 17 in the town.

In a Notice of Violation to Lazarus dated June 26, 2017, Farria said his department “has received numerous complaints in regards to the safety of the water slides and buildings over the past month at your park.”

Farria said he was requiring that Lazarus provide an engineering inspection of each ride and building at the park and should submit that report within 30 days of receipt of the notice.

In another email from Fellner back to Morris 16 minutes later, Fellner acknowledged the first conversation: “Sabrina—You are right. This was discussed on August 4th and knowing it was a priority, I am astonished that the matter was not already handled.”

Later that afternoon at 3:35 p.m., Morris wrote an email to Fellner saying she had requested the Aug. 4 meeting because Lazarus had not responded in the required 30 days.

“During the meeting, you told me to wait until the off season to contact Mark Lazarus regarding his insurance company requirements and to ask for the letter. This is what we’ve done, under your direction,” Morris wrote.

Morris added three more elements in the later email.

“During the meeting you:

Advised that if Mike Farria issued a summons due to non-compliance, he would be fired the next day. (You said council would not stand for that)

You stated Mark Lazarus was installing a new ride at the park next year.

You went on to say he (Mark Lazarus) was getting the town $1 million for the Hwy. 17 improvement project and you did not want to jeopardize that funding.”

Fellner told the Herald she did not make those statements.

Lazarus said town staff told him about some inspection and he fixed the problems.

As for the comments about money for roads, he said he has no control over road funds.

“I don’t know where that’s coming from,” he said.

Morris was fired from her position as Planning, Building and Zoning Director for the town the next day after the exchange of emails.

Fellner told the town council that Morris was fired because she had violated the town’s prohibition of recording meetings between employees.

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I'm the editor of the Myrtle Beach Herald, a weekly newspaper serving South Carolina's Grand Strand. I cover municipal government in Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7258.

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