SLED starts investigation at Latta Town Hall - News - SCNow

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SLED starts investigation at Latta Town Hall

Crystal Moore back on the beat as police chief

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TRACI BRIDGES/MORNING NEWS

Crystal Moore is sworn in as the Latta's new police chief.

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LATTA, S.C. — The State Law Enforcement Division has opened a preliminary investigation into allegations of wrongdoing inside Latta Town Hall.

SLED spokesman Thom Berry said his agency received a letter signed by the majority of the town’s council, requesting an investigation into some past activity at town hall.

Berry did not provide details on the specific allegations or whether they involved specific people, but said his agency is in the process of gathering information at this point.

“We have opened a preliminary investigation to make a determination whether or not to proceed with a full investigation,” Berry said. “We’re gathering information to see if there may have been any statute violations involved.”

The request comes less than a week after Latta voters passed a referendum changing the town’s government from strong mayor to strong council/weak mayor. The council officially took the reins Friday, just minutes after the election results were certified.

Latta Councilman Jarett Taylor said the council has received reports of wrongdoing at city hall and felt requesting involvement from SLED was the best way to determine if allegations are true and move forward with a clean slate.

“We’ve had citizens make allegations of wrongdoing at town hall, and we’ve had employees make accusations, so we wanted SLED to go ahead and look into those,” Taylor said. “Council just thought with us taking over, it was best to go ahead and clear the air.”

As SLED launched its investigation, Latta Police Chief Crystal Moore returned to work at 7 a.m. Monday, two and a half months after Latta Mayor Earl Bullard fired her after she refused to sign seven unexplained reprimands.

Before the firing, according to a recorded conversation with a town council member, Bullard made it clear he did not approve of Moore’s lifestyle. Moore is gay, and her firing has drawn national and even international attention to this small Dillon County community.

Soon after taking control of the government, council reinstated Moore, and on Monday, Moore said life was getting back to the normal she prefers — on the beat, serving the citizens of the town she loves.

“Today has been awesome, just awesome,” Moore said Monday evening. “When I got to work, I had calls from Texas, from California, from here in town, just people calling to wish me well. Even on the way to work, I had people beeping and waving and giving me the thumbs up. It’s just been unbelievable. I’m like a kid in the candy store.”

Bullard did not attend Friday’s special council meeting and was not at town hall on Monday. But less than 24 hours after the referendum passed a week ago, he announced he’d hired Freddie Davis to be the town’s new police chief.

According to a copy of Davis’ contract obtained by the Morning News, Davis is scheduled to start work Tuesday. But council members say they’ve informed him via letter, e-mail and phone that his services will not be needed.

They say they don’t consider his contract legal or valid for several legal reasons, among them the absence of the town’s official stamp on the document and Bullard’s signing of a contract financially obligating the town without the consent of council.

Bullard contends the contract is legal and has said regardless of what the council decides about the chief’s position, the town will have to pay him $40,000 a year for two years as stipulated in his contract.

Mayor Pro Tem Brian Mason said he’s spoken with the mayor but has not heard back from Davis.

“(Tuesday) is his start date on the contract, but I don’t know if he’s planning to show up or not,” Mason said. “We haven’t heard a word from him, so I guess we’ll see.”

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TRACI BRIDGES/MORNING NEWS

Crystal Moore is sworn in as the Latta's new police chief.