County to Mend District 5

WINNSBORO – An ordinance to correct a 2011 redistricting mishap that left District 5 without representation on the Fairfield County School Board and lumped two Board members into District 6 may be before County Council next month. Council Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) asked Interim County Administrator Milton Pope to work with the County’s attorney to prepare the ordinance and have it ready by Council’s May 12 meeting.

Ferguson pledged to address the issue earlier this month when it became evident that a bill passed by the General Assembly in February and signed by Gov. Nikki Haley on March 4 could only correct the districts for the School Board. That left Board member Bobby Cunningham in the precarious position of living in two districts – District 5 for the Board and District 6 for County Council. When answering questions about the matter two weeks ago, Ferguson – as he has maintained since the issue first came to light in February – said the error occurred at the state level and was not the result of negligence on the part of County Council.

“It was kind of indicated that it was our fault that it was like that, and that’s not our (job),” Ferguson said on April 14. “That’s done in Columbia.”

Monday night, a letter from the S.C. Budget and Control Board (BCB), read before Council by Pope, appears to support Ferguson’s position.

Signed by BCB Director Bobby M. Bowers, the letter states, in part, “. . . it was determined that due to an error in the addressing of the 911 road centerline file, both Mr. Cunningham and Ms. Marchella Pauling were placed in the incorrect districts . . .”

According to the 911 file, the letter states, Cunningham’s address appears to lie within the town limits of Winnsboro, which would place him in District 6. A review of property tax records by the BCB, however, shows Cunningham’s address to actually lie just west of the town limits, and therefore in District 5.

Bowers wrote that the error was “inadvertent,” and recommends Council crafting an ordinance to conform with the School Board plan passed by the General Assembly.

Cunningham was elected to represent District 5 on the Fairfield County School Board in 2010. Following the 2010 census that showed a shift in racial demographics in areas of the county, County Council initiated a federally mandated redistricting process, which it completed in 2011. At that time, Cunningham was inexplicably drawn out of District 5 and into District 6. That left the School Board without representation from District 5 and placed two representatives – Cunningham and William Frick – in District 6. Cunningham said he was not made aware of the change until he showed up to vote in the 2012 elections.

“Why was an incumbent taken out of his district in the middle of his term?” Cunningham asked rhetorically when reached for comment Tuesday.

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