Open vote allegedly not taken for Beaufort marina project - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Beaufort leaders deny any violation in marina redevelopment selection

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BEAUFORT, SC (WTOC) -

The city of Beaufort is facing some heat for how it went about choosing a firm to spearhead its marina redevelopment project.

An attorney for the South Carolina Press Association says the city violated open meeting laws.

WTOC talked to the City Attorney and the Redevelopment Commission. Both say they didn't do anything wrong and they still plan to move forward with Historic Marina Partners for this redevelopment project.

On Nov. 13, Beaufort city leaders were all smiles as they announced that Historic Marina Partners would be in charge of its marina redevelopment project.

"The first step will be to engage the public, understand what they think would work there," said Jon Verity, Chairman of the Beaufort Redevelopment Commission.

But Jay Bender, an attorney and professor of law and journalism at the University of South Carolina, says the commission failed to hold a public vote before making its recommendation to the City Council.

"It's my understanding that there was no publicly announced meeting convened in public at which the public vote was taken to choose this company to proceed with the redevelopment. If that is so, that is a violation of the law," said Bender.

Jon Verity says the Redevelopment Commission had informal discussions with all of the candidates before the selection process started.

City Attorney Bill Harvey said they had to develop and negotiate a contract known as a "Memorandum of Understanding" for the firm they chose in the executive session.

Harvey says he attended all of the meetings and is confident the city followed protocol.

"They made their selection in open session, they took no action in executive session, they did nothing wrong," he said.  

Historic Marina Partners has up to six months from the time they were selected to draft up a development plan for the city.

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