According to members of Latta Town Council, Mayor Earl Bullard hired a new police chief Wednesday morning after voters approved a referendum to change the town’s form of government. Details to follow.
LATTA, S.C. — Residents in Latta, S.C., on Tuesday voted to change the town’s form of government to “council-strong,” a move that would strip the town’s mayor of much of his power and allow the council to rehire its lesbian police chief who was fired by the mayor back in April.
The call for a referendum stemmed from the firing of former Latta Police Chief Crystal Moore, who was fired by Mayor Earl Bullard after issuing her seven reprimands in one day — the only reprimands she’s received in her 20-year career with the Latta police force.
Several council members called the firing “questionable” and said 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 while disparaging the Moore’s “lifestyle” and sexual orientation, suggested that anti-gay bias may have also played a role in the firing:
“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. …”
Another council member said Bullard planned to fire Moore before he was even sworn in as mayor.
Residents rallied in support of Moore and demanded that she be rehired, but Bullard refused, prompting the town council to call for the referendum, giving residents the opportunity to change the town from a mayor-strong to council-strong form of government.
“Words cannot describe what it’s been like trying to work with him,” said council member Lutherine Williams. “We’d have never had any reason to even ask for the referendum, but he’s impossible. Everything with him is dictatorship. It’s his way or no way.”
On April 22, the town council unanimously approved an “emergency ordinance” to block Bullard from hiring anyone to fill the police chief job until after the outcome of the referendum.
Council members said Moore would be reinstated if town residents approved of the council-strong government.
Article continues belowUnofficial results from Tuesday’s referendum show 328 “yes” votes in favor of shifting power from the mayor to the council, and 147 “no” votes.
Now that the referendum has passed, the council strong form of government will take effect once the votes are certified, likely Friday.
Council members have indicated that when that happens, Moore will get her job back.
“Words cannot describe how I feel,” Moore told the South Carolina Morning News. “I am so excited. The town came out and spoke up for what was right, not just for me, but for the whole town. They’ve seen what’s been going on for the six months he’s been here as mayor.”
“Now, I’m ready to go back to work,” said Moore.