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Transparency or political theater? County council sets the stage for ugly fight.

Commentary by Audrey Hudson, editor

It’s being billed as transparency in government, but when county council meets Wednesday to publicly interview candidates for the administrator job, the end result is destined to become political theater.

Worse than the proverbial sausage factory, we might be privy to the slaughter.

The rules announced by Horry County Chairman Johnny Gardner resemble a kangaroo court to embarrass some on council, shame particular job candidates, and pack the audience with Gardner supporters to cheer him on.

The prospective candidates for county administrator who face this public farce are:

Horry County Interim Administrator Steve Gosnell
State Rep. Alan Clemmons of Myrtle Beach
Former Myrtle Beach Councilman Wayne Gray
Laurens County Administrator William Caime
York County Manager William Shanahan

Here’s how Gardner says he will run the show, set for 1 p.m. at the council’s chambers in Conway.

Each candidate will be sequestered, just like witnesses to a criminal trial who are kept locked alone in a room.

Each candidate will get a few minutes for opening and closing statements.

Then, each councilman gets five minutes to question the candidates — a process we fear will quickly turn into grand standing, and an opportunity to embarrass or score political points.

This isn’t transparency. It’s the same process being used by Democrats in ongoing congressional hearings designed to investigate and embarrass President Trump.

So, how do we get real transparency in the county administrator hiring process?

Residents have a right to know who is actually running their government on behalf of the entire council.

The council would be more attentive to the candidates, and less concerned with politics and creating a spectacle, if the interviews were will held in private and not in front of the entire county.

That’s where the closed door process should end, and transparency begin.

The full details of the administrator’s contract should be disclosed, the contract itself available for the public to read.

The council should debate the merits of each candidate in public, cast a public vote and defend their choice.

Having each candidate present public statement describing their managing practice and vision for Horry County is a great idea.

However, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that hiring in such a public manner greatly reduces the pool of qualified candidates.

How many prospective candidates didn’t advance to this public show because they didn’t inform their current employer they plan to quit?

Under Gardner’s rules, it will take at least six hours to conduct this inquest.

Gardner himself is taking a political risk by staging a cage match, while he’s accusing other council members of trying to subvert the process to hire their own favorite candidate.

We’ve heard for weeks now that Gardner’s had his own pick lined up for the job.

Interestingly, that pick is one of the five finalists.

For those watching in the audience, or from home on TV, we suspect it will be obvious which man Gardner has wanted in the job all along.

We’re reminded of the old Chinese proverb, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Gardner wished for transparency, but his dog and pony show is just as likely to blow up in his face and expose him for behaving like a good ole boy.