By Kevin Boozer Staff Writer
November 4, 2013
WINNSBORO — Two members of Fairfield County Council — Chairman David Ferguson and Mary Lynn Kinely — were served with separate class action lawsuits prior to Monday night’s meeting.
Courthouse documents show a similar class action lawsuit is in process with Councilman Mikel Trapp, but Trapp was not at Monday’s meeting. Trapp said Thursday morning he had not been served notice of lawsuits. He had no further comment.
The lawsuits pertain to cash payments awarded the three council members in lieu of county health insurance and one suit pertains to Trapp’s receiving payment for tuition to attend Columbia College, payments through which the lawsuits state amounted to council members “improperly receiving monies in a manner not consistent with the South Carolina Constitution or the laws of the state of South Carolina.”
The suit referenced a July 8, 2013, attorney general opinion that stated “that state law prohibits a county from using public funds to make cash payments directly to individual members of county council who elect not to participate in the group health insurance plan offered by the county in lieu of making payments toward the premiums for such plans on their behalf.”
The plaintiffs are being represented by Jonathan Goode and include MaryGail Douglas, E. Scott Frazier Bell, Carole J. Gehret, Stephen Geheret, Tangee Brice Jacobs, Elizabeth A. Jenkins, Helen Johnson, Vernon J. Pylant, Margaret Richardson, Thomas Richardson, Jeffrey Schaffer, Barry R. Tuttle, Clyde E. Wade, Michael B. Ward, Patricia A. Williams and Thomas L. Williams.
The suits seek judgment against Trapp, Kinely and Ferguson for actual damages “including but not limited to reimbursement of all monies wrongfully paid to (these defendants) interest on said monies, costs and attorney fees pursuant to the laws of the State of South Carolina and such and other further relief to which plaintiffs may be entitled.”
Kinely said she still feels the three of them did nothing wrong by accepting cash payments in lieu of county health insurance policies.
“Other counties have done it,” she said. “I’m sorry it has gone this far but the Ethics Commission is investigating and once they make a ruling that will give us direction (in the case).”
Efforts to reach Ferguson were unsuccessful.