COTTAGEVILLE -- Today, Randy Price collects his final paycheck as an officer with the Cottageville Police Department, though nearly three months have passed since he last reported for duty.
Town Mayor Margaret Steen laid off Price, saying Cottageville couldn't afford to keep an officer on paid suspension in such trying financial times. Price shot and killed former Mayor Bert Reeves, who also is Steen's nephew, during a May 16 confrontation on a dirt road only hundreds of yards away from town hall.
The State Law Enforcement Division and the FBI investigated the incident. Steen said the SLED investigation is finished, though she awaits prosecutors' review before she can learn the findings.
"From day one, I have said I will keep him on paid administrative leave until the SLED investigation is over," Steen said. "That was my word, and I am a person of my word. But being under the budget constraints we are under, I had to lay him off."
SLED officials, however, say the case remains an "active investigation" and declined to release any information on the findings.
Steen's decision to lay off Price goes into effect today. Price could not be reached at home or by phone Tuesday.
Mullins McLeod, a Charleston attorney representing the Reeves family, said his clients believe the town's decision relates to the shooting.
"For the mayor to say the shooting had nothing to do with him being fired is like me saying the space shuttle had nothing to do with Neil Armstrong walking on the moon," McLeod said.
Cottageville Police Chief John Craddock said the town instead faced a financial crunch and a choice: lay off an active officer or one on administrative suspension.
"The only thing that has to do with the (shooting) incident is he's on leave," Craddock said.
The Cottageville Police Department now consists of Craddock, two full-time officers and four part-time officers. The entire department's annual budget totals less than $270,000, and Craddock said Price drew a salary in the mid-$30,000 range.
"In a department our size, one salary can really hurt us," Craddock said.
Price, 40, came to Cottageville in May 2008 after cycling through eight jobs in 11 years. His work history includes multiple firings, allegations of misconduct and brutality claims.
Reeves, 40, also cut a controversial figure. He ran for mayor in an attempt to broaden the town's tax base and end its reputation as a speed trap. He then got caught speeding twice, once driving nearly 50 mph faster than the speed limit in an incident that captured national attention.
The chief and the mayor stand behind Price's on-duty conduct.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or on Twitter at @allysonjbird.
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