Monday, February 26, 2024

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
Ph: 336.228.7851

THE PUBLIC ASKS: Does Green Level town councilman-elect have criminal record?

QUESTION: Does Michael Trollinger, the top voter getter in this year’s race for Green Level’s town council, have a felony record? Do his convictions have any bearing on his ability to serve on the council?

ANSWER: According to the N.C. Department of Correction, Michael E. Trollinger was found guilty of several non-violent felonies nearly four decades ago when he was 18-years-old.

The department’s records indicate that the now 57-year-old was convicted on May 9, 1984 of a felony-level charge for receiving stolen goods as well as a misdemeanor for breaking and entering.

Green Level town councilman Michael Trollinger

Shortly thereafter, Trollinger was brought up on some additional charges that included felony-level breaking and entering, felony-level forgery, and misdemeanor larceny. Records show that he was convicted of these added offenses on September 13, 1984 and was remanded to a facility for youthful offenders. His sentence formally ended on September 21 of the following year.

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This summary of Trollinger’s youthful indiscretions represents the sum total of the information that the state department of correction has on the councilmember-elect. Yet, this mundane account says nothing about the stark transformation that Trollinger appears to have undergone since his fateful brush with the law.

Over the past 38 years, the one-time teen troublemaker has grown into what, by most measures, is a productive member of the community. An associate pastor with deep roots in the town of Green Level, Trollinger was thrice elevated to Green Level’s town council even before this year’s election, which saw him place first in a four-person field of contenders who were competing for a trio of available seats on the council.

Yet, the top vote-getter makes no bones about how far he has some since his name showed up on a very different roll when he was still in his late teens.

“It was four decades ago, when I was a juvenile,” he recalled in an interview earlier this week. “I made a mistake; I paid for the mistake; and I’m not the same person I was when I was 17- or 18-years-old. It’s not the way I was raised, and I am not looking back.”

Trollinger, who was 17 when he incurred the aforementioned charges, said that he began to turn his life around even before he completed his sentence.

“I quickly realized that it was not the direction I wanted to go,” he explained. “I did my time at the Polk Youth center and later the Cameron Youth center, and I got my associate’s degree while I was there.”

Trollinger went on to obtain a four-year degree after his release. He also managed to get his rights as a citizen fully restored, including his rights under the Second Amendment. In fact, he can now carry a concealed weapon thanks to a state law that allows people with felony convictions to obtain conceal-carry permits as long as their crimes were nonviolent.

Trollinger’s record has also proven no obstacle to his pursuit of elected office. Under North Carolina’s state constitution, convicted felons are only ineligible for public office if they have “not been restored to the rights of citizenship in the manner prescribed by law.” The only exception to this rule is the office of sheriff, which is off limits to anyone with a felony conviction, “whether or not that person has been restored to the rights of citizenship,” due a constitutional amendment that the state’s voters passed in 2010.

In any event, Trollinger’s eligibility for Green Level’s town council is abundantly clear to Alamance County’s elections director Dawn Hurdle, who concedes that she and her colleagues have previously confirmed his qualifications to seek public office in spite of his decades-old felony convictions.

“This has been brought up in the past when he has run,” she recalled. “But he has completed his sentence, and there’s nothing holding him back from being a voter or being a candidate.”

Trollinger originally established his bona fides as candidate in 2009 when he waged a successful write-in campaign for a seat on Green Level’s town council. He went on to appear on the ballot in 2013 and did well enough to secure another four years in office. In 2017, Trollinger made another bid as write-in candidate after he missed the state’s filing deadline due to a medical crisis in his immediate family. He nevertheless picked up enough votes in that year’s election to win another term on the council.

About halfway into that term, Trollinger was tapped to serve as the town’s interim administrator, and he continued to serve on the council throughout the 8 months he held this staff-level post. The veteran councilmember had pledged to give up his elected position if the rest of the council agreed to make his temporary assignment a permanent one. But his colleagues ultimately offered the job to another contender, and Trollinger served out the rest of his term on the council, forgoing another bid for reelection when his four years expired in 2021.

Trollinger proved that he had lost none of his electability when he returned to the campaign trail earlier this year. In the end, he finished at the top the heap with 25.90 percent of the votes cast in the race for Green Level’s town council. In second place, with 21.33 percent of the vote, was Stephanie L. Enoch, who had narrowly lost a bid for the council in 2021 to write-in candidate Jose McBroom. The third highest vote getter incumbent councilmember Remonia Enoch, whose 20.95 percent share of the electorate was just enough to allow her to retain her seat on the council.

Green Level’s voters weren’t as kind to the other incumbent, Sandra McCollum, who has been serving as the town’s mayor at the pleasure of the rest of the council. With 18.67 percent of the vote, McCollum did not have the support she needed to secure one of the three seats that appeared on the ballot this year.

The renewed questions about Trollinger’s criminal record may have taken some of the sheen out of his superlative showing at the polls. Yet, the once and future councilman insists that he isn’t going to get discouraged by the recent exhumation of his long-buried past.

“It’s a spiteful move by a [current] councilmember,” he said. “They’re not happy that I’m going to be on the council. But I’m not going to play those games.

“The people of Green Level know me,” he added.  “They know that I’m going to do my job and that I’m dedicated to being an advocate for the town of Green Level.”


THE PUBLIC ASKS: Have a question about a matter of public record? Call The Alamance News at (336) 228-7851; write to the newspaper at P.O. Box 431, Graham, NC 27253; or e-mail alamancenews@mail.com.

If it’s a topic in the public domain — a matter of public record, including issues of government, courts, etc. — we’ll try to find the answer and print it in ‘The Public Asks’ column. (Please furnish as much complete and specific information as possible.)

Note: Issues regarding businesses — including salaries, policies, and practices — are usually not matters of public record, unless they are the subject of governmental or regulatory action, a court suit, or law enforcement activity.

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