Latta, S.C., Police Chief Crystal Moore was released by Mayor Earl Bullard on April 15, and for at least one of two questionable reasons. First, she questioned a recent hire of the new mayor; second, Moore is openly gay, and to Bullard’s open discontent.
Moore recently investigated the town’s new Parks and Recreation Dept. director Vontray Sellers, hired by Bullard in February, and after local news reported that same month that Sellers was driving a town vehicle despite having a suspended driver’s license.
In her research, Moore learned that recent charges against 24-year-old Sellers, whose job includes direct interaction with children, also included assault of a correction facility employee. Bullard didn’t conduct a background check on Sellers, Moore also learned. The mayor, who first took office in January, refused to answer questions from both media and the public about the hire.
On Tuesday, Bullard fired Moore after issuing seven reprimands all pertaining to her investigation.
While the reprimands specifically refer to Moore’s investigation of Bullard’s recent hire, the mayor told others a completely different reason – personal disapproval of the police chief’s sexual orientation. In a recorded telephone conservation with Town Councilman Jared Taylor, Bullard said:
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. … 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.
Releasing the openly-gay police chief was a declared intention of Bullard when he first took the office three months ago, Town Councilwoman Lutherine Williams told WBTW-13.
Williams and other council members support Moore, and will discuss her discharge with the public at a 5:30 p.m. Town Council meeting on April 17.
Moore was also well-regarded in the community, and despite its otherwise conservative status of a small, Deep South, rural town of 1,400. Local residents even picketed Town Hall on Wednesday in protest of the firing.
Moore was promoted to Chief of Police in March 2012, nine months before Bullard took the mayor’s office.