A longtime, vocal critic of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce has won his case to force the organization to hand over copies of documents regarding the chamber’s inner workings.
Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles has ruled that Windmill Harbour resident and businessman Skip Hoagland is allowed access to the documents under the state’s freedom of information law. In his ruling dated Feb. 22, Nettles said that because the chamber receives public accommodations taxes, it must comply with the law.
The private, nonprofit chamber has fought the suit, which was filed in Jan. 15, 2013, saying it is not a public agency, so it is exempt from the law.
Hoagland was denied access to a variety of documents, including all accounts, vouchers and contracts dealing with the receipt or spending of public money, according to the judge’s ruling.
Hoagland sent out an email Monday night to supporters announcing he won the suit and that it could have statewide implications for other nonprofits that receive public money.
“This is a huge victory for all tax payers of SC,” he wrote. “This will have a positive effect in each city in sc and send a loud clear signal to all those who have been operating in secrecy for 50 plus years, that now they must be transparent and will be held accountable, along with proven performance measures.”
An attempt to reach chamber officials late Monday was unsuccessful.
Judge expected to rule on Skip Hoagland, chamber lawsuit next month, Jan. 27, 2016