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Bethune hires mayor’s son as police chief

Posted: September 3, 2013 6:10 p.m.
Updated: September 4, 2013 5:00 a.m.

The town of Bethune hired Mayor Carlisle Davis’ son following a special called meeting held Aug. 27. Carlisle Davis confirmed the outcome of that meeting during a phone call Friday.

“Yes, we did,” Carlisle Davis said when asked if the town had hired a new police chief.

When asked who the new chief is, Davis said, “My son, Glenn Davis. If we only have one (officer), he will be chief. That’s the way it is with us. We’re real small. We only have one officer, so he’ll be chief, cook and bottle washer.”

During Friday’s interview, Mayor Davis was unable to say for certain whether Bethune’s police department -- which Bethune Town Council unanimously voted to dissolve earlier this year -- would be expanded to include more officers.

“That might come later on,” he said. “We don’t have too much money.”

Mayor Davis said that Bethune “made a steal” in hiring his son as police chief because his yearly salary will be “less than $10,000.” He said that a typical officer’s salary is approximately “$32,000 … benefits add on another $10,000.”

When asked what prompted council to hire a police officer after having dissolved the department in March, Mayor Davis claimed “We didn’t actually go through with dissolving it because we’d have to have a special meeting and we’d have to have a public meeting and we’d have to go through that way to actually dissolve the police department, which we didn’t do.”

However, as the Chronicle-Independent reported in July, council’s own minutes of the March 2013 meeting state that “(Councilman Jimmy Steen made a motion, due to cost, to dissolve the Bethune Police Department upon help with patrolling from the Kershaw County Sheriff’s (Office). This motion was second(ed) by (Councilwoman) Beverly Farmer and carried unanimously.”

Friday, Mayor Davis further explained the decision to hire his son as police chief.

“But, now, by not having one (police department), we have some money that we can (hire) and the folks around here wanted a police officer -- they wanted someone to be a police officer and be seen in around town. So, when this became available, we decided to do that,” Carlisle Davis said.

Mayor Davis suggested that many of the public’s concerns about such issues only arise at the time of mayoral elections.

“So, maybe that will hush some of the folks up for right now, but I doubt that,” he said.

He also confirmed that $30,000 is allotted out of the budget for the police department -- the approximate net savings the town began its new fiscal year with after dissolving the department in March.

“We would have to amend our budget to do anything differently,” Mayor Davis said concerning any additional funds for the police department.

Cathy Hazelwood, general counsel for the S.C. Ethics Commission said the hiring of Glenn Davis as chief of police may conflict with South Carolina’s anti-nepotism law.

“Section 8-13-750 (of the state code) says that a public official may not cause the appointment of a family member to public office,” Hazelwood said, adding that because Bethune’s police department is supervised and managed directly by Mayor Davis, “I can’t fathom how anyone would not see that as nepotism.”

Hazelwood said the ethics commission needs more time, however, to review the case before commenting further on whether or not any action would be taken against the town of Bethune.

Hazelwood was unavailable later Tuesday afternoon to comment on whether having the entire council vote on Glenn Davis’ hiring still fell under the anti-nepotism laws.

There is also the question of exactly how council voted on hiring Glenn Davis. Town Clerk Gayle Rogerson, speaking on the record, stated that council voted to hire its new police in executive session.

“That sounds like an illegal vote,” S.C. Press Association attorney Carmen Maye said Tuesday. “That action would have to be retaken in public session in order to be valid (council) action.”

The C-I is also attempting to confirm if one of the mayor’s nephews was hired as the town’s water meter reader, but was told Mayor Davis was unavailable Tuesday afternoon for comment.

(Editor Martin L. Cahn contributed to this report.)

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