Residents call out Trapp’s absences

WINNSBORO – He represents Fairfield County’s largest council district, but Mikel Trapp has been spending the least amount of time at council meetings. 

Mikel Trapp

Re-elected in 2018, the District 3 Councilman has been absent for six council meetings or budget workshops so far in 2019, according to County Council minutes.

Trapp has also left early on another six occasions, his departure times ranging from 6:43 p.m. to 7:01 p.m., including Monday night when he left before the council discussed revisions to the county administrator’s contract.

Trapp hasn’t attended a full council meeting since May 14, council minutes show. He couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

The public is taking notice of Trapp’s truancy.

Three residents took to the podium Monday night to voice disapproval of Trapp’s absences. 

An empty chair marks where Fairfield County Councilman Mikel Trapp normally sits during council meetings. Trapp left early for the third meeting in a row, drawing objections from Fairfield County resident Chris Griffiths (standing), who during public comments asked council members to reprimand Trapp. Seated at left is Councilman Jimmy Ray Douglas. | Michael Smith

One of those residents was Chris Griffiths, who expressed frustration that some county residents essentially aren’t being represented. Griffiths called upon the remaining council members to hold Trapp accountable.

“There’s nothing that anybody can do other than contacting the governor’s office and getting that elected official removed,” Griffiths said. “I find it very offensive that the chair for the District 3 is empty right now and it’s consistently empty. I feel this is extremely wrong.”

“The gentleman who came up here before, I agree with 100 percent,” added county resident Jeff Schaffer. “Do something about it. You can’t have a council member who does nothing, gets elected to sit here, doesn’t vote, doesn’t participate and gets paid. People have to go to work every day; if they don’t go to work, they get fired.”

Ridgeway resident Randy Bright suggested docking council member pay as a deterrent.

“This is an embarrassment to the county,” Bright said. “I’ve attended far more meetings. I’m a senior citizen who had a total knee replacement earlier in the year and have missed only one council meeting. I can’t imagine any excuse for this. You guys are too good, too smart to let it continue.”

Fairfield County Council’s rules of procedure address attendance, but don’t mention any penalties for violations.

“Fairfield County Council respects the State of South Carolina’s Constitution as it relates to fulfilling the duties of office as an elected representative of Fairfield County and our oath of office,” the policy states. “Each member of Council should attend every public meeting as scheduled by a majority of Council.”

Other South Carolina counties are conspicuously mum on how they address chronic absenteeism as well.

In Berkeley County, excessive absenteeism is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, though the council “reserves the right to take any action it deems appropriate at that time,” according to that county’s rules of procedure.

Georgetown County Council doesn’t specifically address attendance, but council members can be censured for violating decorum and debate rules. 

Florence’s attendance policy merely states members shall attend meetings and that only the chairman may excuse an absence.

Aiken County’s rules only address long term absences of the chairman, merely stating that “state statutes” shall govern how to proceed following “his/her inability to perform the duties of the chair.”

Traditionally, the governor may remove a council member for committing a felony or “crime of moral turpitude,” according to state law.

S.C. Attorney General opinions generally state that local governments possess the power to discipline its own members, including by ejection.

But the office also cautions city and county councils to strike a balance between enforcing the rules and not violating First Amendment protections.

Here’s a rundown of Trapp’s attendance record for the last three months, according to council meeting minutes. The meetings start at 6 p.m. The time of Trapp’s departure and when the meeting adjourned are noted where relevant.

Aug. 26 – Left 6:56 p.m.; adjourned 8:15 p.m.

Aug. 12 – Left 6:25 p.m.; adjourned 8:45 p.m.

July 22 – Absent

July 8 – Left 6:43 p.m.; adjourned 8:10 p.m.

June 24 – Left 6:52 p.m., adjourned 8:47 p.m.

June 10 – Absent