By Paul Gable
In his first few months on the job, Latta Mayor Earl Bullard has managed to turn this small, rural town upside down and bring it into the national spotlight by ignoring the will of his citizens.
Bullard ran unopposed for mayor in December 2013 and officially assumed office January 1, 2014.
After being elected, Bullard was quoted in local media as saying he was looking forward “to working with the citizens because the citizens are what make this town what it is.”
But it only took three and one-half months for Bullard to forget all this. On April, 15, 2014, Bullard fired Police Chief Crystal Moore for being openly gay despite the fact that she was almost universally liked and respected throughout the town and had been on the Latta force for approximately 20 years.
Bullard was the administrative chief of the town under the strong mayor form meaning he could fire the chief without a vote of council.
Bullard’s assumption of the post of ‘town arbiter on lifestyle’ did not sit well with the citizens he had promised to work with. When pleas from citizens and council members to reinstate Moore went ignored by Bullard, town council voted 6-1 to hold a government restructuring referendum with Bullard being the holdout vote.
Tuesday June 24th, the citizens approved a referendum to change the town’s form of government from the strong mayor form to a strong council form making Bullard no more than first among equals on the town council.
The citizens saw the referendum as a vote to reinstate Moore as chief.
However, before the election results could be certified today and the S.C. Secretary of State’s office notified of the change of government form, Bullard hired a new police chief.
The morning after the election, Bullard, in probably one of his last acts as a strong mayor, announced the hiring of Freddie Davis of West Florence as the new Latta police chief. Bullard signed Davis to a two year contract for the position.
According to reports, Davis’ contract calls for a salary of $40,000 per year. It also includes a clause stating, “If the town of Latta changes the form of government and another person is hired or selected as Chief of Police, the employee as named in this contract shall be entitled to continue employment at the contacted rate of compensation.”
Obviously, more is to come from the Town of Latta. No longer will it be remembered merely as the town that sent Raymond Felton to the NBA.