Columbia Police Chief Tandy Carter’s term as the capital city’s leading peace officer ends after only two years. Carter was fired Monday. City Manager Steve Gantt made known Carter’s termination Monday morning via e-mail. Gantt noted that he was making the move in what he called ” the best interest of the city.” Gantt and members of Columbia City Council have been critical of Carter’s handling the investigation of the April 21 wreck involving Mayor-elect Steve Benjamin and hotel employee Deborah Rubens who remains hospitalized with serious injuries.
Carter did not follow the wishes of council members who wanted to bring in an outside law enforcement agency in order to remove, in their view, a possible conflict of interest. Appearing in a hastily called press conference just before noon and still wearing his uniform, Carter said their is no conflict of interest in his view.
As a sworn constitutional officer of the state, whether it’s me or anybody else that wears the uniform, we don’t have allegiance to individuals, we have allegiance to the constitution, we have allegiance to the state code, we have an allegiance to the municipal code. There is no room for interpretation of any other conflict of interest.
When asked by a reporter if his press conference was a way of telling the city council to quote “take this job and shove it,” Carter retorted that he was simply acting as a professional.
You know that’s your interpretation. My interpretation… I’m just a police chief, I have a job to do. I don’t focus on peoples public opinion. I don’t focus on what council members say. I focus on the scope of the job. That’s the only thing that matters. And that we’re fair, and that we’re consistent and that we’re constitutional and that we’re following the law.
Last week, when pressed on the issue, Carter without consulting with the city manager or city council, sent an inquiry to State Attorney General Henry McMaster for his view of the handling of the investigation. Carter says he does not view his actions in the investigation of the accident as a refusal to follow orders from the city manager.
I will tell you that I’m not sure that I was ordered to do anything by the manager, but what I will tell you -because you’re trying to make this personal. I’m not. I’m trying to make this professional. And what I want to say, may not be the answer to your question, is that I acted within the scope of my authority. And sometimes when you act within the scope of your authority, not everybody agrees with you. But the question becomes, is it lawful and was it ethical. So when you answer those questions: ‘Yes, it’s lawful? Yes, it’s ethical?’ I can’t be compelled to follow an unlawful order.