BREAKING: Manning City Council votes to uphold Shaffer's firing


MANNING - Manning City Council voted to sever all ties with the city's former police chief Blair Shaffer at a special called meeting Tuesday night, disregarding a recommendation from the city's Grievance Committee.

After meeting for 90 minutes in executive session, council members Diane Georgia, Julius Dukes Jr. and Johnny Gordon voted to uphold Shaffer's termination, which Shaffer challenged after being originally decided last month. He presented his case to the Grievance Committee, which recommended Monday night that council return Shaffer to duty with all benefits and compensation with a two-week suspension without pay. Councilman Ervin Davis was Shaffer's lone supporter.

Manning Mayor Julia Nelson, Mayor Pro-tem Sherry A. Welle and Councilman Clayton Pack recused themselves from voting because they make up the the city's Public Safety Committee that fired Shaffer in a letter dated July 11. That committee upheld its decision at a subsequent hearing before the Grievance Committee took the matter.

"This was a hard decision," Davis said following the 3-1 vote in favor of denying the Grievance Committe's recommendation. "My recommendation is to move forward and rebuild our community."

Davis said he also wanted to thank his constituents for allowing him to serve on Manning City Council.

The vote was met with confusion from the crowded council chambers. Many present explained they didn't understand what the city's vote represented. Shaffer's wife immediately began to pray while his children crowded around their father for support.

"I'm going to take a few days before I make a statement," Shaffer told The Sumter Item. "I'll just need a few days."

Just 24 hours earlier, the Grievance Committee - three of the five members voted, as one was recused and one abstained - recommended to city officials that Shaffer's termination be overturned citing "a lack of notice of deficiencies to Mr. Shaffer prior to termination."

The city cited "public safety concerns" in the termination letter. City Administrator Scott Tanner cited Shaffer "yelling and speaking in harsh tones" to a city official; raising his voice to a judicial officer; failing to follow the city policies in promoting officers in his department; and asking police officers to sign a letter affirming they understood the department's "chain of command" as reasons for his firing.

Nothing in more than 70 pages of Shaffer's personnel file and other documents obtained by The Sumter Item through a Freedom of Information Act request for public records hinted at a record of Shaffer yelling at other city or judicial employees, and the letter he reportedly asked his officers to sign was not included. There was no proof any complaints were filed against him or that any discniplinary actions were handed down against him.

At the initial Grievance Committee hearing on Aug. 2, Tanner admitted he signed off on the promotions in question but that he was unaware of an internal policy from 2011 that made them in violation.

A statement from an officer Shaffer said he planned to fire on disciplinary grounds was also not included in the FOIA response.

During the Grievance Committee hearing that was held on Aug. 2, Shaffer said his firing was retaliation by Nelson for his attempt to fire a police officer she wanted to remain on the force. In his words, the mayor told him to "stand down."

In previous meetings, Nelson has said the situation was "unfortunate" and that Shaffer is a "good man."

The Grievance Committee said it considered the presentations and more than 100 pages of documentation when making its decision.

In rendering their decision Tuesday night, council members were only to consider the evidence that was presented at the Grievance Hearing on Aug. 2.