WINNSBORO — The S.C. State Ethics Commission recently delivered a notice for a hearing after 21 counts of findings on three Fairfield County Council members.
Allegations will be heard on David Ferguson (four counts), Mary Lynn Kinley (six counts) and Mikel Trapp (11 counts).
The findings were released Jan. 24, after Newberry Road resident Elizabeth Jenkins filed the complaints on Sept. 5, 2013.
The Ethics Commission determined there is probable cause to support the allegations made in the complaint forms, which led to a formal hearing scheduled for May 21 in Suite 250, 5000 Thurmond Mall, The Pavillion in Columbia.
The hearings will be held in executive session, unless the respondent requests an open hearing. A pre-hearing conference might be scheduled prior to the hearing to allow exchange of witness lists, evidence, marking of exhibits and disposition of motions or pleadings.
In the event an accused member fails to appear, a judgement by default will be rendered.
Ferguson believes there are three decisions the ethics commission can make following the hearing that include:
• Determining council should not have been exercising the practice and should not do again.
• Determine council was wrong for exercising the practice and should pay some restitution.
• Announce no findings where council members made a gain through the county.
Mikel Trapp (District 3)
Trapp’s 11 total violations, according to the S.C. State Ethics Commission, include three counts of failure to disclosure and seven counts of using official office for gain.
Three of those counts occurred when Trapp unlawfully violated Section 8-13-700(A), by knowingly using his official office to obtain an economic interest for himself by vacationing in county funded lodging following the conclusion of the S.C. Association of County’s summer conference in 2010, 2011 and 2013.
In addition, Trapp violated the previous mentioned Section on three counts by using his official office obtain an economic interest for a family member when he voted to allocate funds to his sister-in-law’s employer, CIC Inc.
On July 1, 2011, he voted to allocate $2,500; on July 7, 2011, he voted to allocate $1,234; on July 15, 2013, he voted to allocate $3,500; on July 15, 2013, he voted to allocate $2,500.
The final four counts handed down to Trapp include four years of unlawfully violating Section 8-13-1120(A)(2) when he failed to disclose income he received from Fairfield County in lieu of health care benefits on his 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 Statement of Economic Interests form.
David Ferguson (District 5)
According to the S.C. State Ethics Commission, Ferguson’s four violations came on a count of using his official office for gain to obtain an economic interest for himself by vacationing in county funded lodging following the conclusion the the S.C. Association of County’s summer conference in July of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Ferguson told The Herald Independent that former county administrator Phil Hinely gave each council member an allotted amount to stay at Hilton Head through the duration of the conference.
Ferguson said that when there were no hotels available, council members would or could rent a house that was still under the baseline amount allotted.
“That’s what we did, we always stayed under the amount we were given,” he noted. “I don’t think the ethics commission has looked at this fully, but the majority of delegates that attend the conference, that is the way they do it (rent). We didn’t make a gain and it didn’t cost the county anything for us to stay at Hilton Head, over what they were going to spend anyway.”
Ferguson expressed concern that only three council members (Kinley, Trapp and himself) were given notice of a hearing by the ethics commission.
“I haven’t done anything that I’m ashamed of and I haven’t done anything that all seven of us (county council) have done,” he stated. “We’ve been singled out on this thing. All seven of us went and all seven of us stayed off campus. We all did the same thing, so I’m really not sure why us three are being picked on.”
Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6)
According to the S.C. State Ethics Commission, Kinley’s six violations include four counts of using official office for gain and three counts of failure to disclosure.
Kinley unlawfully violated Section 8-13-700(A), by knowingly using her official office to obtain an economic interest for herself by vacationing in county funded lodging following the conclusion of the S.C. Association of County’s summer conference in July of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
In 2010 and 2012, Kinley also unlawfully violated Section 8-13-1120(A)(2) when she failed to disclose income she received from Fairfield County in lieu of health care benefits on her Statement of Economic Interests form.