Three Fairfield County Council members face charges of state ethics violations

rlowe@thestate.comFebruary 4, 2014 

(L-R) Mikel Trapp, David Ferguson, Sr. , Mary Lynn Kinley

(L-R) Mikel Trapp, David Ferguson, Sr. , Mary Lynn Kinley

FAIRFIELD COUNTY

— Late last month, the State Ethics Commission leveled 19 counts of ethics violations against three Fairfield County Council members – Mary Lynn Kinley, Mikel Trapp and Davis Ferguson Sr. – pursuant to a complaint filed in September 2013.

The complainant, Elizabeth Jenkins of Winnsboro, accused the three of misappropriating county funds to pay for vacations and college tuition, and not reporting money they received from the county after opting out of the county-provided health insurance plan.

The three council members all face three or more counts of misappropriating funds to pay for vacations at Hilton Head after the annual S.C. Association of Counties meetings between 2010 and 2013. In addition, each is accused of illegally taking money from the county, ranging from $23,505 to $24,630, instead of signing up for the county’s health insurance plan.

The S.C. Attorney General’s Office ruled in July 2013, that it is illegal for counties to pay money in lieu to health insurance. Such a payment constitutes “using public funds for private purposes.” (See attached complaints, rulings from the S.C. Attorney General’s Office and the Notice of Hearing documents associated with the case.)

Trapp faces additional charges of using his official office for gain, voting to pay the employer of his sister-in-law a total of $6,730 between 2011 and 2013.

Although the original complaint accused Trapp of getting tuition reimbursement from the county, and the attorney general ruled that such reimbursement is illegal, tuition reimbursement was not among the counts leveled against Trapp.

Attempts to reach Jenkins and the council members Tuesday night were unsuccessful.

The Ethics Commission has scheduled hearings for Kinley, Trapp and Ferguson on May 21, in Columbia.

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