You know, it’s funny about South Carolina. Some things happen here that make me think the tide will change and the state will come barreling into the 21st century, like last weekend’s Peace Lilies for Guns event, where South Carolinians turned in their weapons for flowers; it was quite a success and made me proud of my tiny state.
Until ... the nastiness and bigotry and homophobia f the South reared its ugly head.
The new mayor of Latta, South Carolina, population 1,410, Earl Bullard, has just fired Police Chief Crystal Moore, a twenty-year of the tiny town’s police department. Moore was terminated after Bullard gave her a list of seven reprimands—the first Moore has ever received in her two decades on the job—ranging from:
But most folks in the town don’t believe it was these seven infractions that lead to Moore’s dismissal, they believe she was fired because she is openly gay, and members of the city council have come out, so to speak, and offered support for Moore while condemning Bullard’s decision to fire Moore as an act of retribution.
See, earlier this year, Chief Moore opened an investigation into whether city vehicles were being used improperly by another city official, and then discovered that the mayor had failed to conduct a proper background check on the employee, Parks and Recreations Director Vontray Sellers. It appears that, with the approval of the mayor, Vontray Sellers was allowed to drive a Latta town vehicle even though his license had been suspended in February; two things that would not have been allowed to happen had Mayor Bullard conducted a background check on Sellers.
And that was when Bullard issued his seven reprimands and subsequently fired Moore.
Now, I half expected the townspeople to go along with Bullard; I mean, the Police Chief, the town’s first female police chief, is gay, and, you know, South Carolina and all, but the townspeople weren’t having it.
One city Councilman, Jared Taylor, stepped forward with an audio recording of a phone call between himself and Bullard in which the mayor clearly says he wants Moore off the job because she’s a lesbian:
“I would much rather have someone 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 that they’re supposed to be. I don’t agree with some of the lifestyles that I see portrayed and I don’t say anything because that’s the way they want to live. But I’m 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.”
And once the news of that phone call came out, hundreds of citizens of Latta rallied around Police Chief Moore, demanding that the mayor reinstate her immediately. Councilwoman Lutherine Williams led the push for answers, appearing before that crowd of supporters, but at the town council meeting that same night, Bullard refused to discuss the matter at all.
"We have codes, but this Mayor refuses to obey anything in that book he don't [sic] want to ... If an employee does something, you don't wait three or four days or two or three weeks to do something about it."—Lutherine Williams
Williams says Mayor Bullard should have first given Chief Moore a verbal warning, then a written one; and then he should have discussed the issue with the town council before firing Moore. He did none of that.
Moore says that she is overwhelmed at the support, but the sad thing is South Carolina is one of those states where you can be fired for being gay, even if the person who fired you did so because you questioned his ethics.
But maybe, just maybe, the next time Earl Bullard is up for election in Latta the people of the town will give him the boot for being a bigot and a homophobe and a crooked politician.