Councilman: Mayor tried to influence decision in criminal case

BISHOPVILLE, SC (WIS) - Bishopville Mayor Alexander Boyd is under fire after he allegedly told council members that he wanted the town's police chief "disciplined" after the chief refused to follow an order from the mayor. Two councilmen have confirmed to WIS that Boyd told council, behind closed doors, that he wanted Chief John Ewing "disciplined" for "insubordination."

The mayor wanted Ewing to call a county magistrate to have a judge's decision undone in an assault case on a Bishopville police officer, according to council members. The assault case involved Sherry, Quinn, Blanche and Bobby Moses, whom city officers arrested on August 7 at the Ashley Park Apartments. City officer Roniea Conyers tried to arrest Sherry Moses when the suspect's brother, Quinn and her mother, Blanche started pulling on the officer, according to the court file.

Officer Conyers was able to call for back up and arrested Sherry Moses on disorderly conduct, assault and battery on an officer and obstruction of justice charges. The case file contains photographs of scratches to Conyers' arms and hands. Court records show that all four pleaded guilty and a judge ordered them to pay fines up to $519.

"He asked him to call the judge to see if he could either lessen the sentence or lessen the fine, because he said he was taking some heat because he said these individuals went to his church," Bishopville councilman Craig Nesbit told WIS. Nesbit said Boyd told council that he told city administrator Gregg McCutchen to call Chief Ewing to call the judge.

"The chief told him--told Gregg, he said no," said Nesbit. "That's illegal Gregg, and if the mayor wants to make that call, he can make it himself I'm not touching it."

"It's a complete abuse of power," Councilman Wesley Drayton told WIS.

WIS asked Bishopville Police Chief John Ewing about whether he carried out the mayor and city administrator's order. "Since you're asking me a question involving my immediate supervisors, I'd have to direct those questions to my city administrator," Ewing said.

"Did you ever make that phone call to the judge," WIS reporter Jody Barr asked, "Absolutely not. Did not," Ewing replied.

"Can we talk to you for a second?" Barr asked McCutchen as he walked back into City Hall Tuesday, "Did the mayor ask you to contact the police chief to contact a judge over a criminal case?" "I have no comment about this," McCutchen said. "Did you contact the police chief?" Barr asked. "No comment," McCutchen responded.

"He [Boyd] was mad because the chief more or less told him no," said Nesbit. "That he wasn't going to do something he asked him to do that was illegal. We can't have that type of leadership."

Boyd has not returned our calls for comment on this story.

"If everything is as it appears to be, this guy did some really bad stuff and again," said Columbia attorney Todd Kincannon. who handles cases involving ethics and municipal law. "He ought to consider resigning from office."

"It's unheard of," Kincannon said. "I think, for somebody in politics to go to law enforcement to get a case undone, where somebody's already been convicted. That's just absolutely unheard of, quite frankly/"

The problem, according to Kincannon, is that no mayor or council member has the authority to order any police officer to intervene or interfere with a judge's decision. There is no Bishopville city ordinance authorizing an elected official to order a police officer to make a request in a criminal prosecution.

Kincannon said the chief cannot be disciplined for insubordination, because the chief does not answer to anyone but the city manager.

"It's completely unethical," said Kincannon. "This is a mayor who probably ought to consider resigning after doing something like this. It is a blatant abuse of power for him to go back and try to influence a case that's already over, to help people that are friends of his in some criminal matter."

"We can't be telling our employees to do something that's totally illegal and then when they say no, then we want to take a disciplinary action against them. That's wrong," Nesbit said.

Nesbit said he's spoken with Chief Ewing, who is worried the mayor may try to have council fire him.

"This guy [Ewing] has a family at home, I would imagine, and he doesn't want to go home at night wondering whether or not he might have a job the next time the mayor calls him, maybe he gets fired if he doesn't do what the mayor says, and quite frankly that ain't right," Kincannon said.

Nesbit said Ewing should be given a medal. "Shows you what type of man he is. He stands up for what he believes in, he's not soft, he's not just going to do what anybody asks him to do."

Nesbit said he's working on a letter to the Attorney General, requesting an opinion on this case.

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