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A Sunset Beach woman says she felt threatened when a local developer confronted her following a recent town planning board meeting.
Jan Harris reported the incident to police after developer Sammy Varnam spoke to her in the town workshop room following the meeting April 3.
“He told me if I did not stop writing lies about him, he was going to make me sorry,” Harris told the Beacon. “He kept on and on.”
Varnam said he would take legal action and insulted Harris by calling her a “laughingstock” and saying she had no respect in the community and was making a fool of herself, Harris said.
“He kept repeating that if I said anything about any properties he is involved in, I will be very sorry,” she said. “I asked him if that was a threat. He said, ‘No, it is a promise.’”
Harris complained about the encounter to the Sunset Beach Police Department.
A report taken by Officer Brian Bartlett stated no crime was committed.
“(Harris) said she knew that but just wanted to report the incident,” reads the April 3 police department operations report.
Varnam said he did not threaten Harris. He said he told her he would appreciate if she would stop “saying lies about me.”
He said Harris has been writing and sending emails about him that are lies.
“This deal with Jan Harris goes back years and years,” Varnam said last week. “She’s filed frivolous lawsuits that are ridiculous. I think she’s up to something now that’s frivolous. I just want her to not be saying or writing or telling lies about me. Most people just don’t like people who try to damage their standing in the community.
“When Jan gets in public and makes false statements about me, it damages my standing in the community. It’s hurtful. It’s not right. I asked her not to do it.”
Varnam said he doesn’t know why Harris overreacted by going to police.
“They didn’t do nothing about it,” Varnam said. “They said ‘Sammy didn’t do nothing wrong.’ ”
He said there are more important things in the county to worry about than a small incident like this, which he likened to “two first-graders staring at each other and calling each other a bad name.”
Varnam said Harris and fellow island resident Sue Weddle have been spreading misinformation about dredging work he has been doing at Riverside Drive. Contrary to what they’ve been saying, Varnam said he is in compliance with all permits for dredging and fill work on the island property, which he intends to develop.
“That’s what really surprises me; these ladies can write these things that are lies and the public don’t know any better,” Varnam said.
He said he and his colleagues are being portrayed as bad guys who are doing something illegal, “and we’re not.”
Varnam said he told Harris when she spreads misinformation, she loses credibility “and pretty soon people are laughing at you.”
Sunset Beach Deputy Police Chief Joe Smith said after reviewing the incident with Harris, his department determined “there was no threat made by the letter of the law.”
If someone says they will beat up someone, that is communicating threats, Smith said. If they say they are going to take legal action, that is not considered communicating threats.
“It all depends on what you’re doing and how they word what they say,” Smith said.
If someone says “she’ll be sorry, he hasn’t made a physical threat,” Smith said. “What we were told by the complainant did not fit criteria as communicating threats.”
Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email@example.com.