Days before runoff, Hilton Head mayoral candidates exchange jabs over spending secrecy

In runoff, Hilton Head mayoral candidates will need votes in these precincts to win

Unofficial results show how the votes went for the Hilton Head Island mayoral race
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Unofficial results show how the votes went for the Hilton Head Island mayoral race

Days before the runoff election, Hilton Head mayoral candidate John McCann flip-flopped his view on a major issue in the race after his opponent Kim Likins blasted his views on timeshares, transparency and fiscal responsibility in an email.

On Thursday morning, Likins’ campaign sent out an email blast titled “what’s the difference?” that said McCann “campaigns on Transparency, but does NOT support full disclosure from the Chamber.”

Likins was referring to how the Hilton Head Island- Bluffton Chamber of Commerce spends approximately $2.5 million in accommodations tax (A-TAX) money each year without having to disclose it to the public.

McCann responded to Likins’ comments less than two hours later with his own email blast, where he said his “positions have been misrepresented” by Likins.

In the email, McCann listed three issues in response to Likins’ critiques including his views on timeshare development, the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina funding, and chamber transparency.

“The Chamber of Commerce must be transparent in the use of our ATAX funds. Period,” he wrote in the email.

However, McCann’s email statement with a clear-cut stance on the chamber differs from his previous actions and opinions.

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In an interview with the Island Packet editorial board on Oct. 26, McCann did not support full transparency from the chamber.

He said the chamber shouldn’t be forced to show actual invoices for services and should be able to conceal some discounts for competitive reasons.

“(The public) should see every dollar they spend without seeing the actual invoices,” McCann said.

Hilton Head mayoral candidate John McCann flip-flops on transparency from the Chamber of Commerce during an interview with Island Packet staff.

On Thursday the Island Packet asked McCann about his email statement, which was different from his earlier comments to the editorial board.

He said, “I want to see all the invoices, I want to see whatever it takes to make the residents of Hilton Head comfortable that they know where all the money is being spent.”

However, he said “that’s going to mean different things to different people.”

When asked if that means he’s changed his mind on chamber spending reports, he said “no, I’ve always had that stance.”

McCann said Thursday he wants to see spending reports — including invoices — for all the A-TAX funds the chamber receives.

His opponent has been more clear on her stance regarding the chamber.

When asked about chamber transparency in an interview with the Island Packet editorial board on Oct. 26, Likins said she thinks the public should see “every penny” that the chamber receives, and the “responsibility has been put square on (the town’s) plate” to ensure citizens can see how public money is spent.

However, McCann and Likins were both in the finance and administrative committee meeting on Oct. 16 to discuss the chamber’s contract.

Neither pressed chamber officials for receipts in that meeting, because it focused on what changes could be made to the chamber’s contract before the town potentially gives notice of termination in 2019.

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