The resignation Friday of embattled Lexington Town Councilman Danny Frazier dispels an ethics cloud that lingered for 18 months, town leaders say.
“We can put this chapter behind us,” Mayor Steve MacDougall said. “His stepping away was the right thing to do for the town.”
Frazier’s resignation, after nine years on council, came after he refused to quit and survived an ouster attempt in August 2012, amid furor over his involvement in advising Internet sweepstakes parlors. State law enforcement officials said the industry was trying to revive online gambling illegally.
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But ill will over Frazier’s actions remained. Some town leaders called it a contributing factor in MacDougall’s narrow victory last fall over longtime Mayor Randy Halfacre – once a mentor of Frazier.
The firestorm over Frazier also produced reports of ongoing federal and state investigations into the conduct of some Lexington County officials.
Frazier declined comment Friday on whether his resignation is part of an agreement with investigators.
Some legislators said stepping down from office typically is part of the punishment.
“Usually, most persons in that position use that as leverage” to gain a better deal, State Rep. Rick Quinn of Lexington said.
But two criminal defense attorneys who say they don’t represent anyone associated with the probes warn that isn’t always the case.
“There’s so many different variables,” Columbia lawyer Jack Swerling said. “There’s such a tight lid on everything that I don’t know if we can know what that means.”
Another lawyer said Frazier’s stepping down may be no more than him moving out of town, as he stated in a letter to council members. Frazier said he is moving to a new home on the south shore of Lake Murray
“It would be best to reserve judgment on the resignation until formal action, if ever, is initiated,” Columbia lawyer Jonathan Harvey said.
Other county leaders wonder whether more about Frazier will emerge should the probe become public.
“It (his resignation) doesn’t answer many questions about the rest of the story,” state Sen. Katrina Shealy of Red Bank said. “This doesn’t close the chapter on an investigation still ongoing.”
But Frazier’s move assures Town Hall “a fresh start” with three of its seven members new by spring, she said.
His resignation surprised town leaders. MacDougall said Friday he learned of it from a story on thestate.com, the online version of The State newspaper.
Frazier’s attendance has been spotty since the Internet gambling controversy surfaced in August 2012. Frazier skipped 18 of 33 council meetings since rejecting a demand from the other six council members to quit, last attending one July 30, records show.
But Frazier said his absences stem from increasing demands of his job as a builder, along with minor health issues for himself and relatives.
An election to select his successor will be held April 8, a month after one to fill a vacancy created by MacDougall’s ascension to mayor. Candidates for the post Frazier held must file nominating petitions with at least 618 signatures of town voters by Feb. 14. The winner will serve the final 18 months of Frazier’s term.
For Frazier, his legacy will be helping the town of 18,000 residents grow through annexation and encouraging commercial development.
He often apologized for “very poor judgment” in promoting gambling but nothing worse.