Beaufort News

Lowcountry Economic Alliance appoints new members, despite Jasper County attorney's objection

In its first meeting since Jasper County voted to quit the group, the Lowcountry Economic Alliance appointed six new members Monday to its board of directors, doubling its current size to 12 people.

The appointments, which came over objections from the Jasper County attorney, put the board on a path to long-term stability, said board member David Tigges.

"The goal is to stabilize the organization so we have a true regional economic-development organization that markets and recruits new businesses to the area," he said.

Adding the new members is a "small step" toward that goal, he said.

Entry dues for the new members have been waived, at least temporarily.

Still, it's not clear if the appointments would withstand a legal challenge.

With just three of six board members present, Jasper County attorney Marvin Jones argued that the group lacked a quorum and had no authority to act.

"In order to elect new members, it requires a two-thirds majority," he said. "I would respectfully suggest you don't have sufficient members here."

The three board members present, all from Beaufort County, suggested they were willing to take their chances.

"We're here and we should conduct business," Tigges responded minutes later. "If someone wants to overturn it for lack of a quorum, we will face that issue when it happens."

After months of turmoil, Jasper County Council voted Wednesday to leave its economic-development partnership with Beaufort County. Jasper will instead seek membership in the Southern Carolina Alliance with Colleton, Hampton and three other nearby counties.

For now, Jasper County's members are apparently still part of the economic alliance board, although their involvement is limited to "winding up" the partnership, Jones said.

"Our view of this is that by the nature of an alliance, you really can't have an alliance of one," he said.

Beaufort County members affirmed their commitment to the group.

But unless Jasper County's members quit the board or agree to join efforts to take the alliance in a new direction, it's not clear if any work can get done. Beaufort County Councilman and de facto alliance board chairman Jerry Stewart said it could lead to a "stalemate."

The group also asked staff to seek legal counsel to help it navigate legal questions raised by Jasper County's departure. The attorney could be hired at its next meeting, although a firm date wasn't set Monday.

Follow reporter Casey Conley at

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Jasper County Council votes to leave Lowcountry Economic Alliance; will join new group, 05/16/12