City Council member suing mayor, police officer, and ex-city manager
By Bobby Bryant Editor
Darlington City Council member Sheila Baccus has filed a federal lawsuit against Darlington Mayor Curtis Boyd, council member John Segars, former city manager Howard Garland and Darlington Police Department officer Paul Bryant in connection with a racial controversy last year. Baccus is alleging civil-rights violations and filing of a false police report in connection with an incident last summer in which she was accused of telling Bryant, who is white, to “take your white self back to the white neighborhood.” She also alleges a pattern of racism in the city’s hiring and firing of employees, in the city’s failure to deal with sewer problems in black neighborhoods, in the city’s awarding of contracts for various projects, and in the mayor’s personal conduct. The 18-page suit was filed in federal court in Florence on April 23; news of the case was first reported Friday night by WBTW-TV. The suit may explain an unusually tense and contentious City Council work session last Tuesday night, during which Baccus got into a dispute with councilman Bryant Gardner and a visibly angry Mayor Boyd told them they were acting like “confounded third-graders” and suggested they go home if unable to conduct themselves professionally. A follow-up council session had been scheduled for last Thursday, but was canceled. Council is working to draft a new budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1 – a job made harder by the loss of former city manager Garland. Council recently voted not to renew his contract; the city is searching for a new manager. Baccus’ suit alleges that the defendants deprived her of civil rights, conspired to interfere with her civil rights, that Boyd violated the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, and accuses all defendants of slander and libel. Last summer, council held a special closed-door meeting to discuss the alleged incident between Baccus and Officer Bryant, which stemmed from him giving her a parking ticket. Video from Bryant’s body camera was showed to council during that executive session, Baccus’ lawsuit says. The suit says the mayor only allowed council to see the video once although Baccus asked that it be played again. The suit says that Bryant was present at the executive session, that he made false statements to council, and that he demanded Baccus resign from council. That meeting ended with council voting to refer the case to the state Ethics Commission and the governor’s office; Baccus alleges council took that action in an effort to kick her off council. Neither the governor’s office nor the Ethics Commission has publicly said anything in response to the Baccus incident. Months ago, the News & Press asked the Ethics Commission about the status of the case and was told the agency could not even confirm whether or not it had been asked to review the incident. Baccus is seeking a jury trial. Garland, Segars and Bryant could not be reached for comment for this story. Boyd referred all questions to the city attorney.