LATTA, S.C. — Residents and city council members in Latta, S.C., are questioning the abrupt firing of the town’s first female and openly lesbian police chief, after a recording of the mayor defending the firing reveals his anti-gay bias.
Councilman Brian Mason says that Latta’s Mayor Earl Bullard fired Chief Crystal Moore after issuing her seven reprimands in a single day, reports WBTW-TV.
“I looked at the reasons, some of them are questionable,” Mason told WBTW-TV, adding that the reprimands were more than Moore had ever received in her 20-year career with the town’s police department.
Some residents believe Bullard fired Moore as payback over an investigation into the mayor’s most recent hire, Parks And Rec Director Vontray Sellers, who allegedly was driving a town vehicle on a suspended license.
But a recording by one councilman of the mayor defending his actions seems to suggest that anti-gay bias may have also played a role in Moore’s firing, while another council member said Bullard planned to fire Moore before he was even sworn in as mayor.
Councilman Jarett Taylor’s recording captures Bullard disparaging the chief’s “lifestyle” and sexual orientation:
“I would much rather have … and I will say this to anybody’s face … somebody who drank and drank too much taking care of my child than I had somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children. Because that ain’t the damn way it’s supposed to be. [...] I don’t agree with some of the lifestyles that I see portrayed and I don’t say anything because that is the way they want to live, but I am not going to let my child be around.
“I’m not going to let two women stand up there and hold hands and let my child be aware of it. And I’m not going to see them do it with two men neither. I’m not going to do it. Because that ain’t the way the world works. …”
Now, Moore says, she does believe the mayor had a vendetta against her and fired her because she is gay.
“I can’t believe that we still have no equal rights. That’s the biggest issue. I’ve been harassed, intimidated. This is the first time it’s been this public. I’d tried living a quiet decent life and do what I’m supposed to,” Moore said.
Dozens of residents rallied outside of Latta Town Hall Wednesday in support of Moore, while some council members say the mayor didn’t follow protocol when he fired Moore.
“This woman has been a veteran of the department and a pillar of this community for years,” said Kevin Drawhorn, a Latta resident and supporter of Moore.
On Thursday, the town council voted in favor of a referendum to weaken the Mayor’s power and become a “Council-strong / Mayor-weak town.” The next step for the town of Latta will be an actual vote by city residents about whether to change the town government to “council-strong.”
The town must wait 60 days before putting out the referendum.