LATTA , S.C., June 25 (UPI) -- The town of Latta, South Carolina voted Tuesday to reinstate Crystal Moore as chief of police two months after she was fired by Mayor Earl Bullard purportedly due to her sexual orientation.
Latta residents passed a referendum designed to change the governing structure of Latta from "mayor-strong" to "council-strong"—essentially, to strip power from the mayor and empower the city city council to rehire Moore.
Bullard, who became mayor in December, has denied his firing of Moore was over her orientation, claiming he terminated her for "questioning the authority of the mayor."
But many Latta residents have a hard time believing Moore's termination wasn't personal after Bullard told local media he would rather leave his children with an alcoholic than a gay or lesbian couple."
"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," Bullard said. " . . . 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."
With the ballots still awaiting certification but the outcome of the vote overwhelmingly in favor of the referendum, Moore told local paper Morning News, "I'm ecstatic. Words can't describe."
Before being stripped of his power to do so, Bullard hired another police chief who signed his contract on June 23, after the council-imposed 60-day period before Moore could be replaced but prior to today's referendum.
"I went from being ecstatic, overwhelmed, not able to speak to crushed again. Once again the citizens came out and did what was necessary. He said he would do what the citizens wanted. They came out and they spoke. They supported the yes vote," said Moore, who told WPDE Bullard made the hire to retaliate against the council for changing the form of government.
No word yet on how Latta will handle this new development or whether Moore will be allowed to return to her position as police chief.