Home » City Council, Community » School District May Face Consolidation, Closings and Cutbacks

School District May Face Consolidation, Closings and Cutbacks

sedona oak creek unified school district logoSedona AZ (November 9, 2015)The Sedona Oak Creek Unified School District (SOCUSD) released the following information today:

Community members participating in a three month solution seeking process to address declining enrollment in the Sedona Oak Creek Unified School District (SOCUSD) developed a three point approach with a priority on researching a possible restructuring or reorganization to create a more cost effective and efficient curricular model to maintain quality education and achieve necessary cost savings.


SOCUSD Roundtable meeting was organized and facilitated by the school district

Results of the community involvement will be presented at the December 1 meeting of the SOCUSD Governing Board which will provide direction for a formal presentation, including cost analysis, in January 2016 for a potential new district model. If approved, changes would be implemented for the 2016-17 school year.

“The community input into this process has been significant in helping determine a direction to move forward and reflects a very broad base of interests on both sides of the issue,” SOCUSD Superintendent David Lykins said. “Restructuring achieves three key goals: allows us to keep high quality programming in place, run leaner on a fiscal level and get appropriate and equitable class sizes across our district.”

Nearly 80 people representing parents, teachers, administrators, community members and students attended the Community Roundtable at the Hilton Sedona Resort on Saturday (November 7) to “continue engaging the community in being part of the process to determine how best to address our current reality,” Lykins said.


Sedona Oak Creek Unified School District Roundtable November 7 meeting attendees social networked comments which included that their questions were not being acknowledged by the District panel facilitator, including queries about a recent 18,000 raise for its Superintendent, David Lykins.

In addition to a possible restructuring, feedback included developing a marketing plan to increase student enrollment and identifying ways to reduce administrative costs.

Lykins told the group that enrollment has been steadily dropping over the past 10 years from a high of 1,438 K-12 students in 2005-06 to current enrollment of 1,142. K-8 numbers have dropped from 929 in 2005-06 to 668 this year while 9-12 grades have fallen from 509 to 474.

Based on the current 40th-day weighted student counts, the district will lose $468,418 in budget dollars for the 2016-17 school year. Over the next four years, the impact to the total maintenance and operations budget will be more than $1.2 million.

“Restructuring the district will be emotional for many of us, our employees and the community, should that be the direction we take,” Lykins said. “But the community involvement in this process has really shown their understanding of the challenges we face as a district and is a credit to their forward thinking and willingness and need to be involved in addressing the problem.”

For more information about the Sedona Oak Creek Unified School District, visit www.sedona.k12.az.us or call 928-204-6800.

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Read www.SedonaEye.com for daily news and interactive views!


  1. As it seems no matter what the subject of an article is, does it ever fail for the City’s “service” contract with that controversial “regional” Chamber of Commerce to jump out and bite us?

    A logical solution which unfortunately is after the fact would have been for the city council entering into this pre-arranged commitment with the Chamber/Lodging Council to keep their word and after the first year go out for “requests for proposals” to properly seek bids for competitive sources. But then, of course, “they” conveniently extended the contract to three years.

    There’s always the 30-day termination clause in the contract but who the heck would even think of that as an option with the BS unverified reports tossed out by the CEO of the Chamber. And just who is it at City Hall assisting to aid and abet this sham? Three guesses and the first two don’t count.

    Change that scenario and get legitimate and truly qualified professionals to do a job and that would eliminate the topic from raging on and on. Simple? Si.

  2. steve Segner says:

    Something to Think About says:
    To answer you questions.
    Perhaps the city was so happy they re upped!
    You say.
    Legitimate and truly qualified professionals.

    The chamber, staff and ad agency are more then qualified.
    Do you know the background of the chamber staff? (No)
    The chamber ad agency is award winning.
    There is much much more then just running ads, we need staff in Sedona to help all the travel writers, trade shows, ect.
    If the city is happy, the hotels are happy, the chamber members are happy and all the advertisers on visit Sedona are happy, why are you so UN happy?
    Because of one baker in town? Who won’t pay to play? Is UN happy?
    Have you read the contract? What exactly are you UN happy about?
    Have you gone to all the marketing meetings
    Have you gone to all the city council meeting re the chamber contract?
    Have you met with our ad agency?
    I have and we have and we are happy.

  3. The funny thing about the Sedona Councilor Jessica W is that she doesn’t care about the average Sedona person, since they are retured around 58 ish making around 50K a year. She rather vote to gift millions to the top 1% and make those flatlanders work harder. Drive people and business out. But then that will make more room for vacation rentals and tourists. Right up her alley. But golly she a socialist communist. It is probably the twinkles in her hair, duh…….. Did you read about the councilors that got put in jail Jessie baby?

  4. The Federal government arrested Chamber of commerce director and the City council in Florida for the exact same thing, funneling public moneys to special interest groups, It seems these groups were filing their taxes as non profits when they were for profit businesses. The Sedona City Council gifts millions of dollars of public money to businesses that pose as non profits. They do not independently audit the monies, instead they allow the Chamber to do their own checks and balances. The whole thing is a scam. It’s like allowing an alcoholic guard the liquor cabinet. No government agency does what this city does. I don’t know if City Council is just stupid or on the take. I do know it cannot last forever. Some day they will all pay for this fraud. Everyone needs to turn them in to the IRS.

  5. Ellen Joy says:

    Ya know what’s so sad? It’s all you un-vested mouthy newbie’s who never enjoyed a time in this little town or this original small town where our kids could, and did, walk freely and felt safe…………before all you out of town spend thrifts and want to be’s came in to take us over for your monitory and selfish gains.

    @steve Segner – take a ride out of town and just shut the hell up!

    @West Sedona Resident: there is nothing funny about Donna Joy as she works her backside off in all the correct ways….as she continues to tell the truth.

  6. JeanJ says:

    Steve Segner is full of more s*** than most folks think, if this is possible.

    With $1.3 million in City handouts gifted to the Chamber/Lodging Council, Sedona’s average occupancy rate from July 2014 through June 2015 (FY 2015) increased by 2.9% when compared to the prior year.This unremarkable increase is mainly due to the ongoing recovery from the 2008 Recession, but not to be overlooked is the fact that the FY 2015 average daily room rate went up by 7.0%.

    Even FY 2015 sales taxes collected ($13,489,953), when adjusted using the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator, are less than during the pre-recession years of FY 2006 and FY 2007.

  7. Jim L says:

    Are you all listening to the most stupid person in Sedona? He has ordered you. Told you what to think, what to say. He rants about how you should spend your money where you go shopping. Judge and jury without any experience. Playing with taxpayers money. When will you have enough flatlanders?

    Kick SS — out of town. He his using your money to pay for his ads. Gonna repost @Steve Segner comments thanks whoever you are:

    The Chamber and lodging council has violated their Non Profit status. They are a 501 c6 trade association. They are doing the job that is ordinary done by a for profit company. They are for PROFIT. The IRS would love for you to file against them.
    The process for filing is https://www.irs.gov/uac/IRS-Complaint-Process-For-Tax-Exempt-Organizations
    File these forms Form 211 & Form 13909 for BOTH Sedona Chamber of Commerce and the Sedona Lodging Council.
    They are STEALING public-taxes money! MILLIONS!!!!!!!
    SEDONA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE INC 45 Sunset Po Box 478 Sedona, AZ 86339 EIN: 86-0134659
    AZ 10669612 SEDONA LODGING COUNCIL, INC. Steve Segner President PO Box 2634 Sedona AZ 86336
    The more people that file the better. Lets get these RATS out of stealing public taxes funding their ads.

  8. Anonymous says:

    now Jeanj ,
    gifted to the Chamber/Lodging Council, you use the correct words.
    the chamber has a contract and the get no money to from the city, in fact
    we gave the city $5,000.00 this year for traffic planning.
    ss Said

  9. Let me see…a third of my “property” tax goes to the Sedona Unified School District. (We wont discuss even more of it going to Yavapai County College).
    I’m retired, paid my taxes to put my kids thorough school, but even with that and reduced enrollment, well, hey, it’s “for the kids”. Bulls***! When do we say enough to the absurd taxation and “fees” that fleece us of our hard earned dollars? When do we see a reduction in our taxes to match the reduction in enrollment? “Developing a marketing plan to increase student enrollment” ?? Are you kidding me? Lower enrollment should = lower taxes. Enough feeding off the teat of the taxpayer for the sake of maintaining the status quo.

  10. Oh no! says:


    Time to go out to pasture. You must think you’re in the 1950’s with horse drawn carriges.

  11. GW says:

    Takers and socialists…………….
    Do you think it the goverments responsiblity to pay for businesses advertising? You been played alright Dumb AXXs The first ones are the city council, the next one are the city staffers. NO city pays for PRIVATE businessess ads.
    SS time for you to get out of town. @JeanJ I am a fan, YOU have the FACTS correct.
    FYI= Takers are the ones calling names on here. They can’t back up anything with facts and numbers so they play the game. Steve throws it in your faces. Turn them in! Sedona Lodging Council and Chamber.

    DO IT!
    “The Chamber and lodging council has violated their Non Profit status. They are a 501 c6 trade association. They are doing the job that is ordinary done by a for profit company. They are for PROFIT. The IRS would love for you to file against them.
    The process for filing is https://www.irs.gov/uac/IRS-Complaint-Process-For-Tax-Exempt-Organizations
    File these forms Form 211 & Form 13909 for BOTH Sedona Chamber of Commerce and the Sedona Lodging Council.
    They are STEALING public-taxes money! MILLIONS!!!!!!!
    SEDONA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE INC 45 Sunset Po Box 478 Sedona, AZ 86339 EIN: 86-0134659
    AZ 10669612 SEDONA LODGING COUNCIL, INC. Steve Segner President PO Box 2634 Sedona AZ 86336
    The more people that file the better. Lets get these RATS out of stealing public taxes funding their ads.”

  12. What gobbly-gook from Steve Segner, who gripes about the median age in Sedona (58?) when he, himself, is 67, or is it 68? (TMI on you Face Book, Stevie Boy, including the portion about you working for the city. Truth is the city is working for YOU)

    And you still conveniently ignore the comment about your letter to the RRN news properly identifying your residence in “Oak Creek Canyon” while you take advantage and use your business address to register to vote in Sedona City Elections.

    And the City Council(s) and City Staff continue to buy into your “Just trust me (us) routine.”

    Must give you credit for your ability to cast spells and manipulate to benefit your own goals. You and your pal, the “Good Witch Twinkle Head” – what a pair to draw to. Gawd, it would be funny if not so pathetic. Enjoy while you can – nothing lasts forever.

  13. @give me a break

    Oh I see…

    You didn’t mind paying school taxes when YOZuR kids were in school, also you didn’t mnd if a retired person with no kids in the schools help to finance your kids education..
    But now that your kids are out of school you see no reason to continue paying school taxes ..
    Got you ..
    Typical Tea party/AZ Liberty selfish mentality!!

  14. steve Segner says:

    Frankly Speaking
    And you still conveniently ignore the comment about your letter to the RRN news properly identifying your residence in “Oak Creek Canyon” while you take advantage and use your business address to register to vote in Sedona City Elections.
    Yep. 95 portal lane is my voting address, I also have two other homes in Sedona and one up the canyon,,, you fell better now , great question from someone that will not use there real name.
    West Sedona nailed it , the world stops when some people retire
    by the way new numbers state up 4% in hotel lodging Sedona up 14% marketing works,

  15. @ [Far Leftist] West Sedona Resident,

    “…give you a break” OK, try this:

    I’ve just read the most amazing story I’ve seen in years and contacted the writer in Sandusky, Ohio who has counseled me. The story is a recounting of his ingenious tactic for utterly destroying an internet/blogroll troll like you. Have you ever heard of the online Wall Street term “crowdfunding” which is usually a online financial methodology for raising investor funds for start-up businesses? Well, of late, crowdfunding has been successfully used to raise funds for humanitarian causes. The writer in Sandusky, to whom I refer, came up with the idea of creating an online crowdfunding vehicle to raise money for a fund to be used to go after anonymous blogsite trolls. The idea was that the writer would offer a $1,000 reward, raised from crowdfunded online donations, which would be offered to anyone who could prove who the troll was (like you….West Sedona Resident). The tactic raised $780 from 52 people in less than 30 days at which time the writer, who dreamt this up, posted a $1,000 dollar reward (putting in $280 of his own money) for the troll’s proved identity. The underlying real concept was that the troll would become terrified to talk to his or her friends, neighbors, business associates, gym buddies, club associates, political associates etc. for fear of being ratted out! The troll even had to worry about putting his/her house up for sale out of fear that a realtor would rat him/her out, as well. The troll’s life must have been made miserable because his/her comments came to an abrupt end. Not to mention that the reward seekers were instructed, within the methodology, to watch for and identify any new anonymous blog handles who could be the same troll. Clever idea, was it not? Oh, BTW, WSR, my background was on Wall Street including forensic investment research.


  16. steve Segner says:

    So Rick,
    anyone that post a positive reply or said a post is not true in now a internet/blogroll troll.

    Is Sedona Eye just a mouth piece for the “T party and Sedona “NIMBy”s and crazy Rick, night radio host?
    Remember Rick, you were the one ask not to post on Sedona buzz because of you trolling.
    West Sedona , make some excellent points and yes there are some of us that are left leaning, thank god (if there was one).

  17. @ [Marxist] West Sedona Resident,

    Knowing that you will reply to my anti-internet-troll strategy with some inane and half-witted response as you usually do to anything I say, I saved the best part for last. Here it is:

    Part II, Anti-Internet-Troll (West Sedona Resident) Strategy;

    In my prior comment I didn’t mention that my new friend’s anti-internet-troll strategy has five steps. Step 1 was to open an online crowdfunding site, Step 2 was to post the ID reward once the money was raised, and, Step 4 was to ID the troll. I didn’t mention Steps 3 and 5 which are the two really fun steps! These two steps dictate what is to be done with the troll’s ID once discovered. His Step 3 was to go to the County Superior Court and file a “John Doe Respondent/Defendant” Defamation of Character lawsuit asking $35,000 in damages with the right to substitute the anonymous John Doe party with the yet-to-be determined troll’s name and physical address. Step 5 was NOT to post the then discovered troll’s name and address, for fear of potential liability but, rather, to merely post a court-case link to the lawsuit which would disclose the troll’s name and physical address as a matter of PUBLIC RECORD. That, of course, would be the no-risk way and legal means to publicly identify the nasty troll. Doing that doesn’t do much for the troll’s employment, social status and peaceful life. Not to mention, I would doubt WSR that you know anything about having to defend such a lawsuit. This is not a threat, though, but just a notice that your anonymity is not assured and is dubious, to say the least. Don’t believe me? Then, get a really savvy attorney and find out! Watch your mouth!


  18. Julianna says:

    I know who West Sedona Resident is !!!!

  19. Julianna says:

    @West Sedona Resident

    BTW, I’ve moved, you can’t egg my car again. I’m sure your kids took that as a fine example.

  20. JRN

    Oh wow scary Rick

    You see Little Rick don’t care if you find out who I am…
    Don’t you get it Blow hard..

    My life will go on just like it is;a retired West Sedona Resident)
    And you will still be an insignificant blow hard with an overblown sense of self..

    Happy Thankgiving little Ricky

  21. @little Ricky Jrn

    Btw…. You seem to spend a good part of your day thinking about me, surely a big guy like you with that overblown ego must have better things to do.

    I for one spend zero thought on you.. You ain’t that important to me.

    Get a life tea party boy..

  22. Sedona doesn’t have anything to offer young families. We can go to many pretty places to live. The lodging service industry is the only game in town. Moms and Dads want time off when the kids are out of school. You only offer work on holidays and weekends.
    You have no nothing to offer in sedona. Whining Lodging and Chamber take the money and run. They are on the beaches relaxing while Moms and Pops have to work for a living. Sick. Young families don’t want to work as hard as you require. We want to enjoy time with our kids.

  23. sharlett says:

    To all the above who actually listen or believe anything this guy writes and those who really care and are vested in Sedona – just have to share with you this Facebook post by the great and wondrous steve segner. If this is the finest Sedona has to offer its time to pull the plug!

    “Our trip I turned 67 this last April and realized that we have never taken a vacation of over 10 days in length.I said to Connie, it is now or never, let’s see if we can do it.Connie and I reside on the edge of the OCD spectrum, she has her love of routine and cleaning and I have my fear of failure and a requirement to completely fill all free time.So ok, let’s see if the business will still be there, the dust in the house will not morph into something strange, and will see I…f we are still talking after two weeks.The idea was to do America like most Americans do Europe; you know, if this is Tuesday it must be Belgium, except in this case if this is Kanab, UT. 14 days, 10 city’s, five states, 8 Best Westerns, and four no name dump motels.Connie and I also thought this would be a good time to lose a few pounds. I wanted to get back to what I weighed in high school, I’ve always been close, but the last 5 pound have been fighting me for years. Connie on the other hand was 98 lb. In 1967, and could loose a few pounds, but not at the expense of her boobs, so, something a little higher will be ok.Our plan was to go on the Progresso Diet; one can of soup a day for 14 days (OCD), coffee in the A.M. And perhaps one good meal along the way.28 cans of soup, a pot, a hot plate, and two bassets and new Subaru, and we were off on our journey.To spare you all the grueling details and keep this report at respectable length, I will summarize.We took 4 pictures and saw lots of animals, but they all seem have an aversion to iPhones.Trip notes:So, when your dogs won’t drink the water at a hotel , you shouldn’t.I did. Got sick and didn’t eat for three days. Success, I lost 2 pounds.

  24. Rae Ford says:

    Tony (deleted by editor) (@Julianna), I wouldn’t have guessed you as a female impersonator…but taking a gleaning from your life, perhaps it hits a little closer to home than originally meets the eye. I hear Mainstage has put on some pretty good drag shows – have you been a naughty boy?

    There seem to be many here, not just Tony (deleted by editor) that like to post under pseudonyms and rant about off-topic accusations and air their personal grudges and issues; but as I scroll through the comments I don’t see a whole lot of comments that apply to the article.

    If you’ve moved Tony, then why do you continue to care so vehemently about things that no longer affect you? You appear incapable of being happy, sure you may say you are, but actions speak far more clearly. How many years have you been compelled to put in your two-cents here on Sedona Eye – four, five, six? Tony knows best, huh? If SedonaEye is any indication I truly feel sorry for whomever calls you their lesser half, or are you alone again? I’d put money that your history has large gaps of alone-time. Perhaps it’s your narcissistic personality, don’t believe me? Bet you’re going to have to get the last word in.

    Are there some shady happenings occurring in the city and chamber? I have no doubt. Are there less than worthy personnel in positions of power? You betcha. Is ranting and attacking personnel on Sedona Eye the way to make changes? Probably not. Sedona Eye works hard to get a voice out there but the comments appear not much more than a festering cesspool of ornery people posting potentially slanderous and borderline libelous accusations while ‘safely’ hiding behind their pseudonym. I guess today I could be construed as one of them – thank God I don’t stop by the Eye very often. Be the change you want to see in the world.

    Happy Thanksgiving- I’m looking forward to spending my day giving thanks for all the blessings I have while surrounded by my friends and family. Wishing you all the same.

  25. steve segner says:

    thanks sharlett , was a fun trip.

  26. Just Sayin' says:

    to sharlett

    if you don’t like what steve segner has to say, don’t read his posts. If you feel the need to be critical of his postings on another site and feel that you don’t agree. don’t read them. as a better thought, if you don’t like what he posts on this site, you can leave.

  27. @West Sedona Resident,

    And, Happy Thanksgiving to you to!

    JRN [kd>jw; be sure to lube the oscillating bearings on the big 11]

  28. Jack M says:

    Wow Steve Segner that is a powerful facebook post. You told the entire world that you’re a cheap A** . Not only do you steal money from the public via taxes funding your ads but you are soooo cheap you eat canned soup and stay in cheap a** hotels.

    Just like the visitors the taxpayers pay to come to sedona (via the chamber-lodging). Free timeshares, free food, day trippers, canned soup heated up in a bathroom while they stay outside sedona to save on the additional 7.5% additional taxes charged by the city.

    Now that is a wonderful example of the loser are. It now makes sense why you think the government should pay for your private club, chamber-lodging regional advertising. Low life-losers. You expect the government to pay for you to play with taxpayer’s money. Socialist – Communist low life-losers.

  29. steve Segner says:

    Thanks Jack, the more I save the more I can give away,save and spend liberal.

  30. @jrn

    You said ” Happy Thanksgiving to you to”

    The last “to” should of been “too”

    Not sure what the rest of your post ment,,, is that some secret tea party code?

  31. Jan says:

    @Rae Ford – The same as you, reading through the comments several made an attempt to stick to the subject: School District.

    However the “off-topic” accusations appear to surface when the subject of taxation arises. Preferring to dismiss acknowledgement I’ll not mention names.

    We all know who they are. Tax and spend. But the “spending” unfortunately is acceptable as long as it’s directed to one certain “special interest.” Other than that, the rest of us are accused of not paying our own way – again having nothing to do with the School District as we are all taxed via the THE SEDONA OAK CREEK UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT (NOT City of Sedona) – big difference.

    Making insulting remarks relating to specific businesses is childish and tacky and really not worth addressing. Acknowledging existence of these crude and uneducated people does little more than stoke their egos and they continue to infiltrate practically each and every article that appears on Sedona Eye. One solution (though it may be difficult): IGNORE THEM.

  32. @West Sedona Resident

    I stand corrected. “Too is correct.” As to the code…it’s your personal code in my files and I think you know quite well what it means…or, better yet, what I may elaborate upon!


  33. Ben says:

    But Jan, one reason the bickering persists is because the Chamber of Commerce pokes its nose into absolutely everything going on, both within and outside Sedona City Limits, while in the meantime and according to state law money that could be spent on infrastructure improvements is carelessly tossed to the “regional” and member driven organization, C of C.

    Their (the Chamber’s) implication in this subject of education in general is because it’s been made quite public they are now self-appointed consultants to the decisions under consideration for Yavapai College.

    One thing for certain is that the person(s) suggesting this scam be turned into the IRS and appropriate State agencies for investigation is the only thing that will put an end to this absurd waste of time but mostly inappropriate spending of public money and misguided authority.

  34. Paul dr says:

    Taking or giving one special group taxpayers money is wrong. Letting them speak and take credit for every business when those that do pay to play in the city limits are pushed into silence goes back to Hlter days. ‘
    The Nazis did the same only the “Germanic” stock had rights. Propaganda just like lodging and chamber is what silenced the Germans and created an enviroment to murder Jews. Those that disagreed left and those that stayed just went along with the program.

    @Steve Segner you are stealing and abusive. Are the rest of you just like the Germans? Staying in Silence…… wrong, ugly

  35. Karen says:

    Can you imagine how embarrassing it is to know everyone laughs at you behind your back?

    Can you imagine being in the public eye and people know about your bankruptcy?

    Can you imagine everyone knowing about your private activities?

    That explains my attitude. I’m sorry I can’t help it.

  36. @Ben,

    The IRS and FBI have gotten involved in the same types of commercial arrangements that exist between the City of Sedona and the Sedona Chamber of Commerce. Check out this story from the resort town of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina:


    Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
    Sunday, December 19, 2010


    “Any time you’re spending taxpayers’ money, there should be some checks and balances,” said state Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet.

    Although public money makes up 70 percent of the chamber’s revenue – a projected $18.7 million for 2011 – state law does not require the chamber to solicit competitive bids or follow any other procurement rules for projects that are paid with taxpayer dollars.

    The chamber is required to submit regular reports to governing bodies and the public showing how much tourism grant, accommodations tax and sales tax money it spends and where it spends it, but those reports have no impact on the vendors chosen to do that work.

    Chamber President Brad Dean did not return telephone calls last week.

    Michael Sponhour, spokesman for the state’s Budget and Control Board, said any regulation of how the chamber spends sales tax revenue would have to come from the city of Myrtle Beach.

    Myrtle Beach, which passes the sales tax money along to the chamber, does not require the chamber to follow any procurement rules, according to city spokesman Mark Kruea.

    “The chamber is interested in getting the biggest bang for its buck, so I’m sure they are being responsible with that money,” Kruea said.

    FBI investigation

    The chamber paid two direct mail marketers, Fort Mill-based Miller Direct Media and Jordan Investment Corp. of Conway, nearly $1 million from public funds including the sales tax during the first nine months of this year, according to quarterly spending reports issued by the chamber.

    The payments to Miller Direct and Jordan Investment follow $36,000 in campaign donations those two companies made last year to politicians who approved the tax.

    Those campaign donations and others funneled through Dean and other chamber officials in the wake of the tax increase now are the focus of investigations by the FBI and IRS.

    Scott Brandon, chief executive of the Brandon Agency advertising firm, said FBI and IRS agents have questioned him about his company’s business relationship with the chamber.

    “It’s clear to me they were looking at whether my contributions to any of the PACs had any influence in me getting more business from the chamber,” Brandon said.

    The Brandon Agency gave $3,500 to the Grand Strand Statewide PAC in 2008 and Brandon gave a combined $75 last year to three other PACs that supported the sales tax.

    The Brandon Agency has received $669,982 in public money during the first nine months of this year for marketing projects such as purchasing advertisements in magazines, according to chamber reports.

    Most of that money is passed through to magazines and other media where the ads appear, but Brandon said his company keeps 10 percent to 15 percent in commissions and fees.

    Brandon said he has done work for the chamber for at least a decade and that the amount of money his company received this year is less than what he has received in some previous years.

    “Some people believe that these guys [the chamber] were conspiring to influence the election by giving campaign money and, in return, promising business favors,” Brandon said. “That’s not true.”

    Some area residents and business owners have criticized the donations, calling them payback for a tax increase that directly benefits private companies that get the marketing jobs and tourism-related businesses – such as Myrtle Beach hotels and attractions – that no longer have to spend their own money to advertise.

    Campaign cash

    In several instances, the chamber is choosing to give its business to those companies that either made campaign donations or contributed money to a chamber-related political action committee called the Grand Strand Statewide PAC.

    Miller Direct and its subsidiary, Visit Media, contributed a combined $21,500 to local and state politicians in the months after the tax increase was approved.

    Miller Direct and Visit Media also contributed a combined $5,500 last year to the Grand Strand Statewide PAC. Miller Direct contributed another $3,500 to the chamber-related PAC this year.

    Miller Direct has received $647,340 in public money from the chamber for work during the first nine months of this year, according to chamber reports.

    It is not clear how much work Miller Direct or other companies did for the chamber prior to the sales tax because the chamber previously did not disclose how it spent marketing money.

    However, the chamber’s marketing budget has grown exponentially since the sales tax – Dean has pegged the year-over-year increase at $15 million – making more money available for companies such as Miller Direct.

    Steve Miller, chief executive of Miller Direct, did not respond to a request for comments.

    Jordan Investment Corp. gave $9,000 last year to the tax-raising politicians, according to S.C. Ethics Commission reports.

    Since then, Jordan Investment has been paid $314,716 in public money by the chamber.

    Stephen Jordan, owner of Jordan Investment, did not respond to a request for comments.

    Another company – New York-based Corinthian Media, which purchases television ads for the chamber – has been paid more than $3.7 million in public money during the first nine months of this year. Like the Brandon Agency, Corinthian passes much of that along to media after taking a cut for commissions and fees.

    Corinthian Media donated $3,500 to the Grand Strand Statewide PAC in 2008 and another $3,500 this year.

    Larry Miller, the chief executive of Corinthian Media, did not respond to a request for comments.
    In another case, the chamber has given $544,517 in public money to a start-up company called Visibility & Conversions LLC.

    Visibility & Conversions was formed on Jan. 6, according to S.C. Secretary of State records. The company donated $3,500 to the chamber-related PAC on Jan. 29, according to the ethics commission.
    The chamber’s spending reports show the company started getting public money during the first quarter of this year.

    Visibility & Conversions, an Internet advertising group, is owned by Bill Rosenthal. Another Rosenthal company – Beach Package Promotions – gave $3,500 to the chamber-related PAC in June.

    Rosenthal did not respond to a request for comments.

    The $5.9 million in public money given to companies that contributed to politicians or the PAC represents about one-third of the $18.1 million the chamber spent on marketing efforts during the first nine months of this year, according to the chamber’s reports.

    Calls for oversight

    The amount of public money the chamber receives each year is comparable to the budget for a small municipality. For example, the chamber’s projected public money stream for next year is more than twice the budget of Surfside Beach.

    During the first nine months of this year, the chamber has received $17.2 million in public funds. Nearly three-fourths of that amount – $12.3 million – has come from the sales tax. The rest comes from accommodations tax revenue and state grants.

    The lack of public oversight of how the chamber spends all that money has some legislators considering an amendment to the state law that created the tourism-related sales tax.

    Cleary said he would like to study how other states handle similar local-option sales tax expenditures.
    “We need to look at oversight in other states and do something that’s workable,” Cleary said, adding that an appointed oversight committee that reviews the chamber’s spending could be a solution.

    State Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Conway, said he is not aware of any problems with the way public money is being spent but would support measures to amend the law for more accountability.

    “If there’s some sense of unfairness or if somebody is trying to do business with the chamber but is being shut out, I would not be opposed to any improvements [to the law],” Rankin said. “You always want to get the biggest bang for the buck.

    “But I wouldn’t want to do anything that would create a bureaucratic, slow procurement process that would make them jump through hoops before making a decision,” he said.

    Cleary is among the state legislators who received campaign contributions from companies now doing business with the chamber. Rankin did not receive any contributions from those businesses.

    Some legislators, however, say there is no need for more oversight because they trust the chamber to spend money properly.

    State Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Beaufort County, said the Myrtle Beach chamber is doing “a fantastic job” of luring tourists away from competing destinations in Florida and other states.

    Herbkersman said he trusts the chamber, but “if I had an issue with the chamber, I would want there to be more oversight,” he said.

    Herbkersman introduced a bill last year that would have amended the state law to allow Beaufort County to impose a 1 percent sales tax for tourism promotion, with the money likely going to the Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce. That bill was approved by the House of Representatives but stalled in the Senate.

    Herbkersman said he is not sure whether he will reintroduce the bill during the coming legislative session.
    Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said the chamber’s quarterly reports and regular updates to council provide enough accountability.

    “It’s all there – what they are spending and what they are spending it for,” Rhodes said. “There are always going to be questions with anything that has to do with public money, but I think it’s fine the way it is.”
    John Crangle, director of Columbia-based Common Cause of South Carolina, said giving public money to the chamber without oversight “is an open invitation to abuse.”

    Crangle, whose group advocates for open government, said he questions whether the sales tax legislation is constitutional because it designates a government function – spending tax dollars – to a private entity.
    “I don’t think that there’s any question there needs to be more oversight of how that money is spent,” Crangle said. “This is the kind of thing that cries out for reform.”

    Lobbyists and corporations

    The Grand Strand Statewide PAC is operated by a political lobbying group called the Grand Strand Business Association.

    The chamber contributes $3,500 per year to the PAC and gives the business association money to pay for state and federal lobbyists. Those lobbyists cost the chamber a combined $253,299 in 2009, according to the association’s tax return.

    The chamber also provided an office and administrative support for the business association until this year.
    One of the lobbyists the chamber provides funding for is Mark Kelley, a Myrtle Beach business owner and former state legislator.

    Kelley and Dean delivered some of the campaign donations to politicians in the months after the sales tax was approved.

    There are strict rules that forbid lobbyists from facilitating campaign donations for statewide candidates; however, a spokeswoman for the S.C. Ethics Commission has said it does not appear any laws were violated in Kelley’s case.

    “Just being in the same room is not a violation, it happens all the time,” Cathy Hazelwood, the commission’s general counsel, told The Sun News. “He [Kelley] is not supposed to touch the envelope or hand over the envelope.”

    Myrtle Beach lawyer Shep Guyton was president of the business association until late last year when Mike Wooten, president of Myrtle Beach-based DDC Engineers Inc., took that role.

    Guyton, a former chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, now is vice-chairman of the business association.

    Part of the FBI and IRS investigation focuses on $239,500 in post-sales-tax-increase political donations made by 14 corporations for which Guyton was a partner, the registered agent or both.

    All of the Guyton-related donations were made with cashier’s checks purchased on the same day and in sequential order at South Atlantic Bank, where Guyton was a board member.

    Guyton resigned from the bank’s board of directors earlier this year.

    The Guyton-related donations have drawn scrutiny because some of his partners in the corporations have said the businesses did not have any money to give to politicians. Another corporation was dissolved nearly two years before it purportedly made the donations.

    Also, at least four of the corporations have land that is in foreclosure, and chamber critics question why Guyton was giving money to politicians instead of paying corporate debts.

    Those critics also question how Guyton got the money to purchase the cashier’s checks.

    Dean has said none of the money that passed through Guyton’s corporations came from the chamber.

    All told, the chamber acted as a clearinghouse for $324,500 in campaign donations after the sales tax was approved.

    Those donations were given to four City Council incumbents, seven state legislators and gubernatorial candidate Gresham Barrett, who lost to governor-elect Nikki Haley in the Republic primary. Barrett was the only politician who did not play a role in the sales tax increase.

    The sales tax was approved on May 26, 2009, and the Guyton-related corporations purchased their cashier’s checks on June 8, 2009. The politicians who approved the sales tax increase received those checks and other donations over the next few months and the tax started on Aug. 1, 2009.

    Most of the sales tax money – charged on retail sales within the Myrtle Beach city limits – goes to the chamber of commerce for advertising to out-of-state residents. The city gets about 20 percent of the funds for property tax breaks and tourism infrastructure projects.

    The tax is expected to generate up to $18 million per year over the 10-year life of the legislation.

    or, go to these links:



  37. Just Sayin' says:

    Dear Ben:

    You comments about the IRS have been bantered about for years and yet no one has made that call. Or perhaps someone has and been told by the IRS that there’s no basis for their concerns.

    My challenge to you “Ben” or Donna who ever, make the call or move along this “same old same old” is getting old.

  38. WOO HOO says:

    @J.Rick Normand. Well, well – interesting information.

    And just during the last election wasn’t it one of the partners in the Phoenix advertising agency subcontracted by the local Chamber of Commerce contributed $1,000 to Sandy Moriarity’s campaign fund? Not to mention the promo by S. Segner and his “guerrilla tactics” to reach the “flatlanders” – as made public in the Sedona Eye.

    Corrupt is corrupt whether it’s a small town of 10,000 or a city of 200,000. The sad part is those reluctant to play by the city/chamber imposed rules, acquiesce to blackmail and coercion, seem to have no recourse except hiring expensive attorneys or if enough of them unite and file a class-action law suit against the city and chamber. That would be a dandy resolve, too, for those in power to have the socks sued off them.

    However, your offering, Rick, sheds another ray of hope that maybe there’s a chance for justice to be served. Sure do hope so.

  39. @Karen says:

    @Karen are you talking about the city, jennifer, and lodging?

    It was all over town Jen’s foreclosure. I heard it was her rental not her main house in uptown.

    Then you have all those that went bankrupt in lodging:
    L’Auberge 3 x
    Enchantment at least twice
    Seven Canyons
    Sedona Golf Resort
    Los Abrigados
    Diamond Resorts
    Sunterra 2x
    Ridge at Sedona Golf Resort

    Then you have John D Miller and Al Spector who drove many of these there. Al is tied to at least 5 of them.

    Are they laughing all the way to the bank? Did the city trust them with public funding? Why do they deserve taxes to pay for their ads when they many of them didn’t pay what they owed the city. Those outside the city don’t contribute to the taxes in the city anyway.

    I heard the jokes about the city council and don’t like that these hotels took advantage. I sure there is more than I listed. Most everyone goes bankrupt around here. Spector doesn’t care he goes right past it. He’ll just form another LLC and play with investors money. City always asks his opinion.

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