South Carolina’s workforce agency now says Latta Police Chief Crystal Moore was fired without cause in April.
The Florence Morning News reported that the agency agreed with Moore’s appeal claiming her actions were not insubordinate and were in accord with her law enforcement duties. The ruling means the chief is eligible for back payment.
Latta Mayor Earl Bullard fired Moore in April after she refused to sign seven reprimands he had given her. Moore argued she had been fired because she is lesbian. A town councilman who is allied with Moore provided audio recordings that show Mayor Bullard explaining he did not want Moore in the chief’s job because of her “lifestyle.”
The reprimands claim Moore violated a prohibition on town employees speaking to media outlets about public situations or controversy, that she questioned the mayor’s authority, that she failed to maintain order at three town council meetings.
But SCDEW sided with Moore, calling the reprimands “false accusations.”
“The claimant is not responsible for her separation,” administrative hearing officer Timothy J. Plunkett wrote in Monday’s ruling. “The record establishes that the claimant’s conduct was not insubordinate and was carried out in accordance with her obligations as a law enforcement official. The seven disciplinary write-ups were based on false accusations and were designed to provoke a confrontation with the claimant. In this context, it was not unreasonable for the claimant to request the opportunity to consult with an attorney before answering the employer’s allegations. Therefore, the claimant was not discharged for misconduct connected with her employment.”
The town’s citizens voted last month to put the council in charge of the town’s business instead of the mayor. The council then voted to reinstate Moore, who began work Monday.
Moore says she hopes the findings will allow her to clear her record. Bullard did not comment on the ruling.