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Town Mayor Blocks Fired Lesbian Police Chief From Getting Her Job Back (UPDATE)

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WASHINGTON -- Crystal Moore was easily the happiest person in Latta, South Carolina on Tuesday night.

Residents in the town of 1,400 people had just overwhelmingly voted to reinstate her as their police chief and to strip the mayor, Earl Bullard, of some of his powers. Bullard fired Moore from her post in April for reasons that many residents believe had to do with her being a lesbian. Tuesday's vote, which came in direct response to Moore's firing, changed the governing structure of the town from “mayor-strong” to “council-strong," which meant the town council could and would put Moore back in her job as soon as possible.

But that all changed on Wednesday, when Bullard unexpectedly announced that he had just hired someone else for the post. WPDE NewsChannel 15 reported that Bullard hired someone named Freddie Davis on Monday, in what appears to be a final show of power by the mayor before he loses it at the end of the week to the council. Bullard's carefully timed move falls just outside a 60-day waiting period the council imposed in April to specify when another police chief could be hired.

Moore told the local news channel that she felt as if she'd been fired all over again.

"I have went from being ecstatic, overwhelmed, not able to speak to crushed again," she said.

Bullard, meanwhile, said it was time for the town to move on.

"The town has to continue. The town has to go on, we can't dwell on what happened in the past. The only thing that we can do is try to move forward," he told the news channel. "And in that, the way to move forward is to put someone in place permanently."

The council had been planning to reinstate Moore as soon as Friday, when Tuesday's ballots are formally certified. It's unclear what they can or will do now.

Wil Brown, a friend of Moore's who launched a campaign in April to help her get her job back, told The Huffington Post that the community has "lots of ideas on how to fight" to get Moore back on the beat.

"Council may invalidate the contract [with Davis] or simply fire the new hire once the election is certified," Brown said. "It's wait and see until council officially gets power."

Prior to getting fired, Moore had served at the police department for more than 20 years without incident. Bullard, who just became mayor this year, fired her after giving her seven reprimands at once, alleging that she questioned authority and failed to maintain order. Moore said she did nothing wrong.

In the meantime, an audio recording surfaced of Bullard going on a homophobic tirade about preferring to leave his children with a raging alcoholic versus someone whose "lifestyle is questionable."

Moore posted messages on her Facebook page on Wednesday conveying shock, sadness and graciousness to those supporting her.

"I did not ask for all the publicity. I was doing my job like I had for over 20 years. This has turned my life upside down. I have always been loyal, dedicated, legal and fair," she wrote, noting that she'll be appearing on MSNBC to discuss what happened. "You all have been awesome supporters and would love to share the national news with you."

UPDATE: 11:15 p.m. -- Latta council member Jarett Taylor said Wednesday night that it appears Bullard broke local laws by writing up a contract unilaterally with Davis.

"He needed council approval to do that," Taylor said in an interview on MSNBC's "The Last Word."

"We're going to test his ability to put the new chief under contract. The council supports Crystal 100 percent," Taylor said. "I've spoken to all six council members and we're still behind Crystal."

Moore also appeared on the show. She said Bullard has said all along he would do what Latta residents wanted. But now he's ignoring their vote and possibly the law, she said.

"It's like a nightmare that will not stop," Moore said. "We're not going to give up."