Latta Mayor Earl Bullard talked exclusively with WPDE NewsChannel 15 about last week's firing of longtime police chief Crystal Moore.
News of the controversial firing has been sweeping the nation after Moore said she lost her job because of her sexuality.
Bullard said personnel policy won't allow him to say why Moore was let go, but says it had nothing to do with her being homosexual.
"Right now, it's a hot issue. It's getting media attention across the nation because of what they say I did. And they say I fired her because of her sexuality and nothing could be farther from the truth. If they did some real investigating they would find out that that has nothing to do with this. Nothing at all," explained Bullard.
Bullard added he can talk about what led to Moore's firing if she gives the town permission.
"If Chief Crystal Moore would sign a release granting us, meaning the town, the authority to release the reasons for her dismissal, then and only then can I talk about the specifics of it. Now, if there's nothing to hide then she'll sign that release and I can talk with you openly about the reasoning."
He said he would have never fired Moore if it wasn't justified or in his authority as Mayor of Latta.
"I have never fired an employee that it wasn't justified. And that it wasn't in the best interest of those I served. I try to treat everybody the same."
State Law gives him the authority as Mayor in a town where the government is a Strong Mayor Weak Council to fire and hire personnel with the exception of the town attorney, town judge or clerk-treasurer, Bullard said.
"Other than those three, the mayor and only the mayor has the authority to hire and fire anyone that works within the municipality."
Latta Town Council says Bullard had no right to terminate Moore without going through council first. They argue that's a part of Latta Municipal Code of Laws.
Bullard says some parts of the Town Code of Laws is contrary to State Law.
"State Law says I can. State Law says I can. And I didn't have to seek the approval for it. And if didn't have the grounds to do, I never would have done it. No council member, no council member has come to me and asked to discuss the matter of the firing of Chief Moore. Not a one. Except when it was done that day. I had two council members come in that door right behind you and say 'you can't fire her, you can't fire her. And it was almost a screaming match. They questioned the authority of the mayor in that situation. Nobody asked for the reasons. Nobody asked to sit down and talk about it."
Council members Lutherine Taylor and Jarett Taylor said they both went to visit Bullard the very day he fired Moore in effort to learn why he let her go.
Taylor said Bullard isn't willing to hear what council has to say on the matter.
"There is no reason to talk with him. He made it evident in writing that he is the mayor. We (council) have no authority," said Taylor.
Latta's current form of government keeps town council members from voting to re-instate Moore as the town's police chief.
Council voted last week to hold a referendum June 24 asking voters to decide if the form of government should be changed to a council-run system.
Bullard added if voters approve the change of government, the town would have to spend money to hire a town administrator to oversee the day to day operations of Latta.
"Where are you going to find $60,000 or above to hire an administrator, if you don't have the money to make payroll. Well, the statement was made we can still let you run the day to day operations of the town. And I had to point out to them, if that be the case why are you trying to change it now.? If it's going to be the same thing, it doesn't make sense," added Bullard.
Bullard says Moore's firing has split the community, but he believes Latta will reunite when the whole truth comes to light.
"Bullard said, "This community has been resilant. We have had controversy in the past. We have had undeserved attention in the past. But any
community, when the truth comes out, the whole truth comes out, yes we can rebound from it. Certainly we can."
We've reached out to Crystal Moore in effort for her to tell her side of the story following Mayor Bullard's statements.
A town meeting and rally is planned in support of Moore
Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Ellis Performing Arts Center at Latta High School.
A symbolic vote will be taken and the community will have a chance to voice their concerns about Moore's firing.