S.C. Voters Strip Mayor of Power for Firing Popular Gay Police Chief

Amid last night's Beltway bluster over which conservative Republican would win a Deep South Senate seat, the media missed some pretty interesting local election results—like the South Carolina town that rallied to back a gay police chief and punish the mayor who fired her two months ago.

Voters in Latta, South Carolina, opted by a more than 2-to-1 margin Tuesday night to scrap their strong-mayor government in favor of a more powerful city council. The referendum came after widespread revulsion over Mayor Earl Bullard's unilateral decision in April to fire the town's first-ever female police chief, Crystal Moore. Moore, pictured at far right in the photo above, also is gay.

Bullard insisted he didn't fire Moore because of her sexual orientation, but no one was convinced, especially after local affiliate WBTW gathered the following quotes from the mayor:

S.C. Voters Strip Mayor of Power for Firing Popular Gay Police Chief

S.C. Voters Strip Mayor of Power for Firing Popular Gay Police Chief

S.C. Voters Strip Mayor of Power for Firing Popular Gay Police Chief

S.C. Voters Strip Mayor of Power for Firing Popular Gay Police Chief

S.C. Voters Strip Mayor of Power for Firing Popular Gay Police Chief

After his capricious decision and the subsequent popular backlash, Latta's city council voted unanimously to hold last night's "strong council" referendum, which would invest hiring and firing power in the council and leave the mayor to abide its decisions. The measure passed 328 to 147, with more than half of Latta's registered voters turning out for the unusual ballot initiative.

Councilwoman Lutherine Williams told SC Now after the vote that the council's first order of business would be to rehire Moore, and she had choice words for the mayor:

"Words cannot describe what it's been like trying to work with him," Williams said. "We'd have never had any reason to even ask for the referendum, but he's impossible. Everything with him is dictatorship. It's his way or no way."

As if to confirm Williams' pronouncement, Mayor Bullard made another unilateral move Wednesday morning to foul up the council's plans: He announced the hiring of a new police chief on a two-year contract, starting July 1. The not-yet-strong council is now considering how it will fight the not-yet-weak mayor.

[Photo credit: Facebook via WBTW-TV]