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Councilwoman's conduct referred to governor, ethics commission
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City of Darlington

Councilwoman's conduct referred to governor, ethics commission

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 DARLINGTON, S.C. — A Darlington city councilwoman's interaction with a city police officer on June 17 will be referred to the South Carolina Ethics Commission and Gov. Henry D. McMaster. 

At a called meeting Tuesday, the Darlington City Council voted 5-2 to refer the conduct of Councilwoman Sheila Baccus.

The interaction occurred after Officer Paul Bryant observed a white SUV parked illegally along Oak Street. Bryant then wrote a $10 ticket and placed it on the windshield of the vehicle.

As he turned to return to his vehicle, according to his report, Bryant was approached by an African American female identified as Baccus. 

Baccus asked him what was going on. 

Bryant then explained that he had written a ticket for the vehicle being illegally parked and that he had given a warning previously regarding the vehicle. 

A second female approached and commented about the situation, according to another media outlet's description of the police report regarding the incident. 

Baccus then asked the officer if he didn't have anything better to do than write parking tickets. 

Bryant's report says he replied that writing tickets was his job and if Baccus had a problem with it, she could contact Police Chief Kelvin Washington. 

Baccus then called the chief after asking for Bryant's name. 

Bryant's report indicates that Baccus asked Washington why he had a "white officer over here harassing us?" 

After ending the call, according to Bryant's report, Baccus turned back toward him. The councilwoman then told Bryant that Washington indicated he would take care of the ticket, according to the report.

Bryant then told her that it was good the chief would take care of the ticket because he wasn't harassing anyone. 

According to Bryant's report, Baccus told him: "Take your white self back to the white neighborhood.  You’re probably the kind that would shoot us in the back."

Bryant reportedly did not make any additional comments and left the scene. 

Washington later issued a statement saying that the officer had done nothing wrong and that the officer had his complete support.

Bryant also filed a harassment report against Baccus following their interaction.  

Tuesday's vote came after the city council met in executive session for over two hours in a room along the side of the purple and silver — the colors of Darlington High School — basketball court inside the Harmon Baldwin Recreation Center on Sanders Street.

After the council returned, Mayor Curtis Boyd called the meeting back to order and then implied that efforts at compromise in executive session had failed. 

"After long deliberations, speaking and talking with everyone in here, we've done what we think we can do to try to work with each other," Boyd said. "In the city of Darlington, everyone on this council is here — myself and all of the council members up here — are here for the betterment of this city. We love our city and we love everyone in it. And we all are going to do what we think is best for every citizen here. We all chose to be here. ... That's why I ran for mayor, and that's why they ran for city council."

Boyd then asked the council members for a motion to provide information on Baccus' conduct to the city attorney for referral to the South Carolina Ethics Commission and McMaster. 

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Thirty seconds passed before Boyd again asked for a motion. 

At-large Councilman John M. Milling then made the motion. 

Milling first said that the city council did not have the authority to remove a member from office. 

"Whether that should be done lies with the governor's office and, perhaps, the ethics commission," Milling said. "I would make a motion that since we were not able to get the matter resolved tonight that we instruct our attorney to simply turn it over to the officials that have the authority to make the decisions as to what needs to be done, if anything, with this matter." 

Milling also said the residents of the city looked to the council members to conduct themselves in a way that did not place anyone under condemnation or make anyone feel threatened or disrespected. 

"I pledge to the citizens who are gathered here tonight in my dealings with you, with other council members and with members of our staff that are employed with the city of Darlington that I will treat you with respect and with equality, and I will not undertake to belittle you or degrade you in any fashion, and that's my motion," Milling continued. 

Mayor Pro Tempore John H. Segars then seconded the motion. 

Boyd then called for a vote. 

Voting in the affirmative were Boyd, Milling, Segars, Howard Nettles and Bryant Gardner. 

Councilwoman Elaine Reed and Baccus voted in the negative. 

Boyd then spoke. 

"Again, I agree with Councilman Milling, we're here for the city of Darlington to grow and to treat all fairly," Boyd said. 

He said he backed everyone who does what they were supposed to do 100%. 

"What our world today needs and the reason I have this mic today is Jesus Christ," Boyd said. "Have a good night." 

 Reed spoke after Boyd. 

"We do need Jesus Christ," Reed said. 

She implored the community to work toward Christ's message of unity. 

"It's simply how one person dealt with another person," Reed said. "And for it to escalate to this, when each one of us has possibly been in that situation, I want you all to think about that. ... Feelings may have been hurt. Bad things may have been said. But it was at that moment. It is at that moment. And we are here to take care of the business of the citizens of Darlington, and one of that is to show that our concern and things that we want to do that we are united in that, because we want the best for the city of Darlington."

The city, she said, can't unite if every time something like this happens there is such a big gap that can't be closed. 

"We must come together and stop fighting each other," Reed said. 

Baccus represents Ward 1 on the nonpartisan council. Ward 1 includes the central and eastern portions of the city of Darlington.  

She did not comment during the meeting and walked by several reporters without commenting as she left the meeting. She did stop and speak with several people on the way out and was helped to her car by a man and a woman. 

Washington declined to make additional comments after the meeting, referring questions to his statement issued earlier. 

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Government and Politics Reporter

I cover the city of Florence, the county of Florence, the state legislative delegation of Florence County and surrounding areas, and the federal delegation representing the Pee Dee for the Morning News.

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