By Ruben Lowman
After an incident that occurred last week, North Myrtle Beach city manager Mike Mahaney is currently under an official state investigation for an alleged assault.
The investigation, being carried out by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), stems from an interaction that occurred between Mahaney and Laura Weaver, a local business owner who runs Glass Bottom Kayak Tours in the city, last Tuesday, May 10, at NMB City Hall.
“The City Council for North Myrtle Beach takes this matter very seriously,” said NMB spokesperson Donald Graham. “The city has referred the incident to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to conduct an independent investigation.”
SLED spokesperson Renée Wunderlich confirmed to The Times that Mahaney is actively under investigation by the state agency but provided few other details.
“SLED was requested by the North Myrtle Beach Police Department to investigate NMB City Manager Michael Mahaney for an alleged assault,” Wunderlich said. “No other details are available from SLED at this time as agents continue to investigate.”
Wunderlich said more details may be available later. At this time, what is known about the alleged assault comes from an incident report filed by NMB Police and voluntary statements from both Weaver and her business partner, Tyler Watkins, which The Times has reviewed in full.
The incident report outlines that the alleged assault stems from Weaver’s interaction last Tuesday, May 10, with Mahaney and councilmember Nikki Fontana. Weaver said in the report that she received a message from Fontana around 2:15 p.m. that day asking if she was available to meet with her and Mahaney.
Weaver’s business, Glass Bottom Kayak Tours, is currently involved in contentious ordinances that have been passed recently by the city. The ordinances place regulations and a launch fee on the kayak tour companies that operate out of the Cherry Grove Boat Landing.
According to the incident report, Fontana escorted Weaver back to Mahaney’s office when she arrived at city hall, where Weaver said “as soon as she took a seat in the office she was asked about an email that was sent over by her business partner… to the city recreation center.”
During the conversation, Mahaney became “increasingly upset,” according to the report, followed by him placing his hands in Weaver’s face and “standing over her in an intimidating manner.” The report states further that Mahaney had his hand and finger in close proximity to Weaver’s face and then he grabbed “on her right leg just above the knee with his left hand.”
Weaver’s statement to the police says that Mahaney began to berate her over the email from Watkins to the city, that the rest of City Council wanted her company shut down, “but he was trying to help me, but would not do so if we continued to ask questions.”
The NMB Police incident report states that after loudly telling Mahaney to “get your hands off of me” and to “get his fingers out of her face,” Weaver said Fontana apologized for Mahaney’s behavior and advised “he just gets too passionate.”
The report says that after Weaver expressed to them that she felt “she was being verbally and physically intimidated,” Mahaney was said to have apologized and offered her candy “to make her feel better.”
“At this time [Weaver] demanded that her business partner [Watkins] be contacted. Mr. Mahaney questioned if he needed to be present when [Watkins] arrived,” the report states. After this, Mahaney, Fontana, Weaver and Watkins discussed the earlier matter in a larger conference room at city hall.
Watkins said that they are receiving assistance from local elected officials, Rep. William Bailey and Sen. Greg Hembree, over the matter. Hembree is the attorney for Glass Bottom Kayak Tours.
Fontana took to social media to share her statement about the alleged assault.
“This statement is issued by me to correct current stories posted on social media about our current city manager,” Fontana wrote on Facebook. “The meeting was this past Tuesday afternoon and I was present the entire meeting. Contrary to what has been reported no one was threatened, physically intimidated or assaulted in any way.”
Weaver, a former teacher at NMB High School, is a longtime resident of the city and graduated from NMBHS herself in 1993. She received her master’s degree and spent several years in education before choosing to focus on her kayak business full time a few years ago.
Mahaney has been NMB city manager since being hired in 2010 after holding the same position in the city of Deerfield Beach, Fla.
After conferring with their attorneys about a “personnel” issue in a hastily-arranged executive session last Friday, May 13, city officials said that they would wait and see what the findings from the state investigation were, and then proceed from there.
“City Council met with the city attorney working in conjunction with the city’s labor attorney for approximately an hour and a half Friday afternoon,” Graham said. “Council will review the matter again when SLED concludes its investigation.”
Mayor Marilyn Hatley said during Monday night’s council meeting that NMB city leaders would let the state agency do its job and then they will make decisions about the matter.