Details few on Rhodes firing Walterboro public safety chief praised

Former Walterboro Public Safety Director Otis Rhodes is shown in October 2011.

Wade Spees

WALTERBORO — City officials praised Public Safety Director Otis Rhodes Friday, but they weren’t so talkative about why he was fired after 22 years with the department — including the last nine as chief.

City Manager Jeff Lord, who under the city’s form of government has sole power to hire and fire staff, fired Rhodes at 11 a.m.

The city released a statement two hours later listing Rhodes’ accomplishments but offered few details about his termination. Rhodes did not return calls.

“We are grateful to Otis for his contributions, but the time has come for someone else to continue the progress that has been made and to pave the way for even more in the future,” Lord wrote in a statement.

When he was contacted later, Lord said, “There is no other reason.”

The Post and Courier’s earliest report of Rhodes’ termination spread quickly through social media Friday, sparking mostly surprise among Walterboro and Colleton County officials and residents.

Mayor Bill Young said he and council were advised of the situation but couldn’t talk about it much because it was Lord’s call and a personnel matter.

Rhodes was hired by the public safety department in December 1991, according to his record with the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy.

A statement released by town spokeswoman Elizabeth Boineau praised Rhodes for his work at the department, including implementing the plan to combine the police and fire departments into one, bringing violent crime down to some of the lowest levels in 20 years and helping the department achieve an ISO 3 fire rating.

Major Ken Dasen, the assistant public safety director, will serve as acting director until an interim director is hired.

“There’s work to be done, and I am confident the City and its citizens will be best served by new leadership in the Public Safety Department,” Lord wrote in the statement.

Natalie Caula contributed to this report.