BLUFFTON — Months after a local police officer stopped Councilwoman Bridgette Frazier for speeding and then arrested her on charges of driving with a suspended license, she is demanding $2 million from the Lowcountry town.

In letter to Town Manager Stephen Steese, Frazier’s attorney said that Bluffton was liable for negligence, negligent supervision, false arrest and false imprisonment. Her lawyer, Tiffany Spann-Wilder, is a state representative whose 109th district covers parts of Charleston and Dorchester counties.

Town representatives reached out to the Insurance Reserve Fund, which is a state agency that operates like an insurance company for counties and municipalities. Bluffton’s $1 million tort liability policy limit leaves the town responsible for any payment beyond that amount.

Frazier, 40, was pulled over on March 9 for allegedly driving 56 mph in a 35 mph zone near Bluffton Parkway and Persimmon Street, according to an incident report filed by Officer Richard Ramirez. Six officers responded to the scene. Frazier, a Bluffton native who has been on council since 2020, declined a request to comment on the story.

Bluffton Councilmember arrested following traffic stop

Ramirez wrote that he confirmed through dispatch that Frazier’s license was suspended for failing to pay traffic tickets on multiple occasions. Frazier told the officer she did not know her license was suspended.

Shortly after the arrest, the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles advised Frazier of an error on her record in a letter. A designation for failing to pay a traffic ticket was erroneously posted to Frazier’s file in March 2023. Her record was updated, and driving privileges were restored March 11 of this year. A DMV spokesperson said mistakes like this are rare but do occur. Driving records show Frazier did not have any other unpaid tickets at the time of the incident. 

Bridgette Frazier

Bluffton Town Councilmember Bridgette Frazier is asking her own town for $2 million following a March arrest for driving with a suspended license.

Ramirez wrote that he arrested Frazier because of her spurious suspension and “abundance of suspensions for the same violation and others.”

Frazier’s DMV record shows that her license has been suspended five times since 2015, all for failing to pay traffic tickets. She has cured each of the violations. Frazier has received five speeding tickets in the past 10 years. As of July 10, she did not have any points on her license. 

In the June 25 letter to Bluffton officials, Frazier’s attorney suggested that the officer should have instead issued a courtesy summons to the councilmember, which would have required her to appear in court without being placed under arrest.

“Councilmember Frazier does not wish to fight her case in the news,” said Spann-Wilder, adding that her client believes she was singled out for arrest due to her “notoriety.”

According to Bluffton Police Department procedures, officers can issue courtesy summons at their discretion if someone is detained for a misdemeanor offense. The subject of an arrest must not have a past history for failing to appear in court, the guidelines read. This extends to failing to pay tickets, Police Chief Joseph Babkiewicz told The Post and Courier.


Bluffton Chief of Police Joseph Babkiewicz

He said he would not open an internal investigation into the situation.

“I’m not going to get into specifics on that case,” Babkiewicz said. “But I will tell you our officers followed policy.”

Spann-Wilder wrote that Frazier was not read a Miranda warning. The lawyer wrote that videos obtained through a legal filing showed the officers turning their body cameras off and on while discussing the arrest, and making comments she described as “questionable.”

A letter for the attorney of Bluffton Councilmember Bridgette Frazier to Town Manager Stephen Steese.

Spann-Wilder declined a request to allow The Post and Courier to review the videos. Town Attorney Terry Finger said the dash camera videos were subject to an expungement order, also rebuffing a request.

Frazier was transported to the Beaufort County Detention Center at 11:39 a.m. March 9. She was out 72 minutes later.

Finger said the case was transferred to the Beaufort County Magistrate. Bluffton moved to dismiss the case, which occurred in April, records indicate.

Frazier filed for expungement in May. Her attorney, in the letter first reported about by The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette, said that process is not complete. Wiping Frazier’s record of the arrest is a time-consuming process that requires approvals through the state law enforcement division, solicitor and a circuit court judge.

Spann-Wilder initially set a deadline for the town to provide payment by July 8 but extended that benchmark to accommodate Bluffton’s meeting schedule. Town council did not take any action on Frazier’s demand during its July 9 meeting. Her attorney could not be reached for clarification on the next steps before the deadline.

Bluffton’s next town council meeting is Aug. 13. Steese said the agenda would make clear whether Frazier’s case would be discussed, likely in executive session.