Fairfield Co. residents voice concerns about councilman's `only whites complained` comment

Fairfield Co. residents voice concerns about councilman's `only whites complained` comment

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, SC (WIS) - There's outrage brewing in Fairfield County after a controversial comment by a county councilman.

Councilman Mikel Trapp made racial comments during a meeting last week but video of the exchange has just surfaced and some taxpayers say skin color has no place in county politics.

"You're supposed to be representing all of your district – both black and white," Darlene Johnson said at a council meeting on Tuesday night. "It doesn't matter who brought the complaint. The complaint exists. Treat it as a legitimate complaint."

Beth Jenkins with the group Saving Fairfield said she's still surprised by the answer she got from Trapp just the other night.

"It's wrong, and that's what it's about," Jenkins said. "It's about right or wrong. It's not about color. The response was flooring. It was absolutely flooring from an elected county official."

In 2013, WIS discovered Fairfield County paid Trapp $26,806 for college tuition.

Those taxpayer dollars paid for Trapp's books, fees, and tuition to Columbia College, a private liberal arts college for women.

A July 2013 opinion called the tuition payments "suspect" and something Fairfield County had no legal right to do.

Since then, Trapp has been paying the county back month-by-month out of his county paychecks but just last week, Jenkins asked Trapp if the payments would continue if the councilman was voted out in a March election.

Trapp told Jenkins his next payment would be on "the first of never," but that's not why the exchange is sparking outrage.

"You keep mentioning the citizens and taxpayers," Trapp said. "The only citizens and taxpayers I see come to that mic was white. I haven't seen any blacks come and complain about tuition reimbursement."

Trapp continued by saying 60 percent of the county is African-American and he hadn't heard complaints about his tuition repayment from any of them only from white people.

Jeff Schaffer, who is also part of Saving Fairfield, said holding politicians accountable isn't a race issue.

"To say something of such a nature to a public audience he doesn't address the people like he cares for us," Schaffer said. "The African-American community does care, and at that meeting, people were shaking their heads in disbelief."

Trapp would not comment other than reminding WIS that the payments he's been making to pay back the county are voluntary and not court ordered.

When asked him if he truly plans to stop payments Trapp he said that's a decision he and his attorney will have to make. Trapp declined to comment on how much of the roughly $27,000 he's paid back so far.

Trapp is facing two opponents in the upcoming March 3 election.

Schaffer and Jenkins hope taxpayers will get engaged, learn about the candidates and vote on Election Day to make the county better.

Copyright 2015 WIS. All rights reserved.