Wednesday, October 24, 2012
This week’s Andrews Town Council meeting was held before an overflow crowd as residents expressed their concerns about the firing of Police Chief Jennifer Flowers who was terminated Tuesday.
Andrews Mayor Rodney Giles says insubordination was the reason Flowers — the first female police chief in Georgetown County — was let go from the position she has held since August 2010.
Flowers said she was called into Giles’ office Tuesday afternoon and terminated.
Giles said the “insubordination” stems from the recent hiring of two police officers by Flowers.
The positions were budgeted, Giles said, but the individuals who were hired were not approved.
He said Andrews has a strong-mayor form of government and all hires are supposed to be approved by the mayor.
The two officers were still on the job as of Thursday but it is unknown if they will remain on the force.
Giles said the decision to terminate Flowers was difficult.
“It’s always hard when you have to take disciplinary action against anybody,” Giles said.
Flowers was at Andrews Town Hall on Wednesday morning collecting her belongings.
Giles said Sgt. Verney Cumbee has been named interim police chief until a permanent hire can take place.
At the start of Wednesday’s Town Council meeting, things got heated during the 30-minute public comment period as residents and business owners made it known they want answers about why Flowers was fired.
However, no one who spoke asked Giles or council to give Flowers her job back.
Janie Harrelson, a resident and business owner, told council there are a lot of rumors about the reason for the firing and people “deserve some answers.”
She said Flowers was “doing a fine job” and had “cleaned up this town more than anyone had done in years and years.”
Veronica McCray said she supports Giles because he was following policy when he made his decision.
Jennie Weaver told council said she feels safe with Flowers as chief.
“To be able to stop at gas pumps without having to be harassed” is something she is able to do because of Flowers, Weaver said.
Donna Flowers, the sister of Jennifer Flowers, said her sibling has helped clean up the town since she has been chief.
“She has helped me as a person clean myself up,” she said.
Karen Stone began her comments by noting council members were dressed better Wednesday night than they were at a meeting last week.
“Jennifer Flowers has done an excellent job. You will find no one who can do the job better. I thought a lot of our mayor until this happened. Look at what we have been through, for God’s sakes. In order for Andrews to change, this is going to have to change,” Stone said as she pointed to the council members.
Speaking again later in the meeting, Weaver again addressed the rumors about the firing.
“I don’t want to spell it out. We have all heard the rumors. It has taken our community several steps backwards. If that is the issue, it needs to be addressed,” she said.
Although no one would give specifics about the “rumors” during the meeting, several residents told the Georgetown Times after the meeting Flowers was fired because both of the officers she hired are white.
Denise Moore said she ‘did not get the memo on the rumors” but does not understand how people can say it’s a race issue because Mayor Giles was a big supporter of hiring Flowers two years ago which led to a heated exchange with Weaver which continued until Giles banged the gavel calling the meeting back to order.
“If that is the rumor, Giles stood alone in hiring her. She did not have the credentials when she was hired,” Moore said. “She was hired for her experience with the Sheriff’s Office. To take the race card off the table, I am here to tell you my man stood alone when hiring her.”
As Giles was trying to restore order to the meeting, Kelly Mixon stood up and tried to join in the exchange that was taking place between Moore and Harrelson. Giles ordered her to sit down. She refused and was escorted from the room by a police officer.
After the meeting, Mixon was asked how she felt about being removed from the meeting.
“I loved it. It was awesome. I got to speak my opinion,” she said.
Tiffany Pierce said Giles was the one who made the decision to fire Flowers so he should “let us know what happened and what the future plans of council are.”
Neither council or Giles made any comments about the firing during the meeting.
Click here for raw video from the Town Council meeting
Read more on this story in Friday's Georgetown Times.