Robinson, Roseborough, Greene seated on council;

Neil Robinson, Tim Roseborough and Shirley Greene
Bell named chair; Greene, vice-chair

WINNSBORO – An incumbent and two new county council members were sworn into office in council chambers at 5 p.m. on Monday. The uneventful swearing in ceremony was followed by the election of officers and the first drama of the 2021 council session.

Fairfield Clerk of Court Judy Bonds swore in returning councilman and former chair Robinson and newly elected council members Timothy Roseborough, a former county employee, and Green, a frequent critic of the previous council.

Following the swearing-in ceremony and a short reception, the full council reconvened at 5:40 p.m. to elect officers with senior member Mikel Trapp presiding.

When Councilman Pauley asked that the votes for chair and vice-chair be recorded, Bell became agitated.

“One of the things I did before the meeting, I called to understand the procedure for doing this. As I understand, it is, uh, the bylaws says that it’s a secret ballot,” Bell said. “So I suggest we follow the by-laws.”

County Attorney Tommy Morgan intervened, advising that while council’s bylaws do allow for the election of chair and vice-chair to be conducted by secret ballot by a majority vote, he said that South Carolina case law provides that if a council member requests that the vote be recorded, then that becomes a public vote – it (the request) doesn’t have to be in the form of a motion, Morgan said.

“I’m looking at an attorney general’s opinion that was written March 14, 1989 for…a Laurens County attorney. I will quote the pertinent sections…it says, ‘I’m enclosing previous opinion issued by this office to answer your question. In opinion no. 84-4 issued on Jan. 17, 1984, this office concluded that if a member of council asks that a vote be recorded, then a secret ballot could not be used in that instance,” Morgan said. “In the opinion relied upon, Section 30-4-90, subsection A(3) of the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, it says all public bodies shall keep written minutes of all their meetings, including, but not limited to…the substance of all matters proposed, discussed or decided and at the request of any member, a record by an individual member of any votes taken…,’ ” Morgan quoted from the statute.

“In essence, if a member asks that a vote be recorded, that takes it out of secret ballot possibility and moves it into a vote going forward,” Morgan said.

Bell responded with audible irritation.

“I don’t understand why this information was not given to council until now, and I want that to be noted and documented in the minutes,” Bell said.

“Because the councilman [Pauley] has asked that the vote be recorded, it doesn’t even have to go forward with a motion and a second. It’s not a vote that’s necessary to vote for chair and vice-chair. It would be like any other matter of business,” Morgan said. “It would come forward pursuant to a motion, i.e., the motion to nominate an individual to be chair, and then that motion would require a second, and you would go forward with a [public] vote [for chair] like any other ordinance.’”

Greene moved forward with a motion to nominate Moses Bell for chair. Bell in turn made a motion to nominate Green for vice-chair. The public vote was 4 – 3 in favor of Bell as chair followed by a 4-3 public vote in favor of Greene as vice-chair. Bell, Trapp, Greene and Roseborough voted ‘for’ both Bell and Greene. Pauley, Gilbert and Robinson voted ‘against’.

Fairfield County Council members, from left: Clarence Gilbert, Neil Robinson, Timothy Rosborough, Shirley Greene, Mikel Trapp, Moses Bell and Douglas Pauley