About 100 people showed up at a Town Council meeting Thursday in Latta, S.C., to protest the firing of the lesbian police chief by the mayor, who has a record of homophobic remarks.
Mayor Earl Bullard fired Crystal Moore Tuesday after presenting her with seven written reprimands, reports the Morning News of Florence, S.C. Moore, who had been chief for two years and a member of the police force for more than 20, had not received any reprimands previously. Moore asked to consult with her attorney before signing off on the reprimands, but Bullard fired her when she would not sign immediately, council member Jarett Taylor told the paper.
Bullard, who took office in January, made it clear before he was sworn in that he did not want Moore to continue as police chief, another council member, Lutherine Williams, told Myrtle Beach TV station WBTW. The station also obtained a recording of Bullard making homophobic statements in a phone conversation with Taylor.
“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,” the mayor said. He also said, “I don’t agree with some of the lifestyles that I see portrayed” and “I’m not going to let two women stand up there and hold hands and let my child be aware of it.” Listen to the full recording below.
Another factor in Moore’s firing may have been her questioning of a recent hire by the mayor. New parks and recreation director Vontray Williams was driving a municipally owned vehicle while his license was suspended, and Moore found the mayor had not conducted a background check on Williams, WBTW reports. Bullard’s reprimands of Moore appear to refer to this matter, as they list offenses such as “running background checks without properly signed authorization” and “questioning authority of mayor to look at job applications for potential employees.” Council member Brian Mason told the station some of the reprimands seemed “questionable,” and others said Bullard had intended to get rid of Moore all along. South Carolina has no law banning job discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Moore has received much support from residents of Latta, whose total population is about 1,400. In addition to those who attended Thursday’s meeting, others protested at the Town Hall Wednesday. “This woman has been a veteran of the department and a pillar of this community for years,” Moore supporter Kevin Drawhorn told WBTW at the rally Wednesday.
At Thursday’s meeting, Bullard refused to discuss Moore’s firing in open session, the Morning News reports. He attempted to go into closed session to talk about the matter, but the council would not vote to do so. He had also refused to move the meeting to a location that could accommodate more people than the Town Hall could, so many residents attending were forced to stand outside. Williams addressed the public after the meeting adjourned and apologized for the situation.
Williams has requested a special meeting to discuss Moore’s firing, and she and other council members vowed to continue advocating for the chief’s reinstatement. She said the mayor did not follow official procedures in firing Moore, and the council is also trying to change the town’s form of government to give the council more power and the mayor less. Thursday it approved the second reading of an ordinance that would allow citizens to vote on such a change.
In addition to the support Moore has received locally, national groups such as the Human Rights Campaign have called for her reinstatement. Moore told the Morning News she’s touched by the support and will not give up. “I’m going to fight for my job,” she said. “I haven’t ever done anything but uphold the law and the policies of the town of Latta. I’ve tried to live a quiet life and do what’s right.”
Watch WBTW's report below: