Apparently tired of multiple accusations of embezzlement and taunts that he would be going to jail, the finance chief of the local chamber of commerce angrily confronted a relentless critic of the chamber, telling him, “You don’t know who you are f---ing with.”
The scene, at Hilton Head Island Town Hall on Tuesday afternoon, devolved to the point Skip Hoagland called deputies, and Sheriff P.J. Tanner even got involved to de-escalate the situation.
Hoagland has become a controversial figure locally, relentlessly firing off long email missives and showing up to speak at public meetings all over the county to point out what he sees as abuses of power. No one has been a bigger target than the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, which Hoagland believes lacks fiscal transparency and has something to hide.
Hoagland addressed the Finance and Administrative Committee on Tuesday, and Hoagland and Raymond Deal argued afterward in the hall.
According to Hoagland, Deal followed him out and threatened him, saying, “You don’t know who you are f---ing with. I’ll f--- you up.” Hoagland said Wednesday that he feared for his safety and that Deal was being held back.
Hoagland told the deputies that “all” he said to Deal was that “he was going to be put in prison for embezzlement,” according to the police report.
Deal, who did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday, told deputies that it was Hoagland who followed him out of the meeting room. Deal said Hoagland called him a “crook” and repeatedly said he was going to prison. After listening to the threats “for a while,” Deal said he approached Hoagland and made the “You don’t know who” comment. The police report does not specifically say whether Deal denied saying the second part of the quote Hoagland attributed to him.
Deal said at no time did the argument become physical.
Deputies also interviewed Mayor David Bennett, who was in the hallway at the time. Bennett described a “heated argument” involving “tax fraud and embezzlement” and confirmed hearing the “you don’t know who” comment. Bennett told deputies he did not witness any more of the argument and declined to speak about the incident to a reporter Wednesday.
Tanner arrived shortly thereafter — to attend a 5 p.m. meeting with the Town Council — and spoke with Hoagland.
“I listened to him,” Tanner said of his conversation with Hoagland. “He got it off his chest, and we made everyone go their separate ways and cool off. I told him this sounded like a school-yard squabble.
“I’ve known Skip for years, and he and I have never had a cross word about anything,” Tanner said. “I know he’s very good at pushing buttons when it comes to raising temperatures and emotions. I’ve never known Skip to be physical with anyone, but he does say the right things to irritate or aggravate a certain situation. That’s just his demeanor.”
Tanner said the Sheriff’s Office has not filed any charges in relation to the incident. He added that he told Hoagland that if he wanted to pursue charges that they could “go down that path if needed.”
The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce said in a statement on Wednesday, “Due to Hoagland’s frequent false, harassing and antagonizing personal attacks that have gone on for many years, Ray Deal exchanged words with Hoagland. There was no physical contact of any kind.”
The statement goes on to say, “Mr. Hoagland’s extremely malicious personal attacks on the chamber, its staff and numerous others throughout our community continue to reflect his abusive and escalating erratic behavior. It’s unfortunate.”