Residents of Latta, South Carolina are calling into question the motivations behind Mayor Earl Bullard’s firing of Police Chief Crystal Moore, a 20-year veteran on the town’s police department.
Moore was unceremoniously relieved of her duties earlier this week after Bullard handed down a list of seven reprimands. Members of the city council have voiced their support for Moore and are condemning Bullard’s unilateral decision to fire Moore as an act of retribution, or worse: of outright homophobia.
Earlier this year, Moore — who is openly gay and the city’s first female police chief — opened an investigation into whether city vehicles were being used improperly by another city official. Among her findings was the fact that Bullard had failed to conduct a proper background check on the employee, Parks and Recreations Director Vontray Sellers.
In an apparent act of retribution, Bullard issued seven reprimands in a single day against Moore, the first reprimands she has ever received in more than 20 years on the force, before firing her on Tuesday.
City Councilman Jared Taylor suspects something even more pernicious could be at work. He provided local news affiliate WBTW with an audio recording of a phone call between himself and Bullard in which the mayor says he wouldn’t let his children be exposed to “questionable” lifestyles, and would rather have an alcoholic be responsible for his kids than a gay person.
“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,” Bullard says on the call. “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.”
Councilwoman Lutherine Williams has led the push for answers, appearing before a crowd of nearly 100 people outside of city hall on Thursday evening in a show of support for Moore. She and other council members intended to discuss Moore’s firing at the Thursday evening town council meeting, but Bullard refused to discuss the matter at all, to the disappointment of the dozens who crammed into the chambers in search of an explanation.