Latta Police Chief Crystal Moore is not fired, lawyer says - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Latta Police Chief Crystal Moore is not fired, lawyer says

Crystal Moore's lawyer says no, she is not fired. (Source: WMBF News) Crystal Moore's lawyer says no, she is not fired. (Source: WMBF News)

LATTA, SC (WMBF) – The lawyer for Crystal Moore, who served as Latta’s police chief until last week, says that because the town council did not vote to terminate Moore during an open session, Moore still holds the position.

In a letter addressed to Latta Administrator Jarett Taylor and Latta Town Council dated September 12, five days after Moore was reportedly fired from the Latta Police Department, Moore’s lawyer M. Malissa Burnette states she learned over the weekend that the town council did not vote in open session on September 8 to terminate Chief Moore’s employment.

“Therefore, Crystal Moore still holds the position of Chief of Police of Latta, South Carolina,” the letter states. Burnette explains that state law prohibits public bodies from taking any action in executive session, aside from adjourning or returning to public session. All decisions must be made by a public vote, and the vote of all council members must be recorded in the meeting’s minutes.

Burnette stated that she advised Moore not to return to work unannounced, in order to ensure an orderly transition. Burnette states that Moore is ready and able to return to work, and she expects full pay and benefits to continue with no deduction from her accrued annual or sick leave.

“Please advise when you want her to return to work,” Burnette states.

Taylor said the town will respond to the letter at a later time.

Moore told WMBF News she was fired in private after the regular town council meeting last Thursday, and she had no idea it was coming.

Her apparent firing came a few weeks after Taylor suspended Moore for five days due to what he said at the time was a personal matter.

Moore was at the Latta Police Department Friday to pack up her personal things and turn her office and job over to Derrick Cartwright, who will serve as the town's interim police chief.

On Friday, Taylor said the main reason he let Moore go deals with a sexual harassment complaint against a town employee that was not properly filed by the former police chief.

Moore said the victim came to her after attempting to go to the town administrator first. She added she is related by marriage to the alleged perpetrator and asked a Dillon County Sheriff's deputy to file the harassment complaint in order to prevent a conflict of interest.

“It’s just such turmoil and a whirlwind of effects," Moore said, becoming emotional at times. "I feel like I’m drowning. I feel like I’m suffocating ... and all I want to do is do what’s right. All I did was a victim came to me and reported a sexual harassment. She had already talked to town council members and felt that nothing had been done and the person wasn’t disciplined and was still having these attacks.”

According to Taylor, firing Moore after Thursday's town council meeting was not an easy decision, as he has always stood behind her.

Burnette said the real issue underlying her firing was the town administrator wanted to divert attention from his failure to adhere to law and policy when a female employee reported that a department head under Taylor's supervision had been sexually harassing her.

"Taylor did not conduct an immediate investigation or take appropriate action as required by law and policy, but instead protected the man and the sexual harassment continued," Burnette said.

The Columbia-based attorney added Moore is protected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and they are filing a lawsuit against the town of Latta.

On Sunday, Taylor released a lengthy statement on Facebook, further detailing the chain of events leading up to Moore's firing, from his perspective.

Taylor said he is upset by allegations by Moore’s attorney, Malissa Burnette. Burnette said the real issue underlying her firing was the town administrator wanted to divert attention from his failure to adhere to law and policy when a female employee reported that a department head under Taylor's supervision had been sexually harassing her.

"Taylor did not conduct an immediate investigation or take appropriate action as required by law and policy, but instead protected the man and the sexual harassment continued," Burnette said.

Taylor said he released the statement in order to clarify the town’s actions regarding the sexual harassment claim and the manner in which it was reported. Click here to read the full statement.

Moore is also currently running for Dillon County Sheriff and indicated Thursday's firing would not stop her campaign.

Previously, Moore said the town's mayor fired her in 2014 for being openly gay after 25 years serving with the Latta Police Department. She was eventually rehired by her city.

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