COLUMBIA -- Columbia officials on Monday fired the police chief who refused to relinquish the investigation of a car crash involving the city's first black mayor just hours after his election.
Tandy Carter, who was hired about two years ago, insisted that his officers could conduct fairly the investigation of the April 21 crash in which a 61-year-old hotel worker was seriously injured when her car collided with a sport-utility vehicle driven by Mayor-elect Steve Benjamin.
No details of the investigation have been released, and no one has been charged in the wreck that injured Deborah Rubens.
Benjamin, who was on his way to an interview early in the morning after he was elected, had asked for an independent investigation. The city council wanted the investigation turned over to the state Highway Patrol.
Carter refused, saying there was no conflict of interest.
"I am not a puppet police chief," Carter said Monday. "I don't respond kindly to people telling me how to do my job."
Carter said he'll challenge his termination.
Last week, in response to a request from Carter, the state attorney general's office issued a ruling that the city council had full authority over the police force and could order the investigation turned over.
The Highway Patrol, however, said it would not take over the investigation because so much time had passed but would review the city's investigation when it is complete.
Carter referred all questions on the crash to interim chief Col. Carl Burke, a 30-year veteran of the Columbia Police Department. Police spokesman Brick Lewis said the investigation was still ongoing and that no details would be released.
Benjamin said he had not spoken with Carter or city manager Steven Gantt.
"Many of us have strong, personal feelings on how this matter has been handled and what should have been done differently," he said in a statement released late Monday. "But now is not the time to let rancor or resentment further divide us."
The city council had scheduled a special meeting Monday to discuss a resolution requiring the investigation of all car crashes involving current or recently elected city officials be turned over to the Highway Patrol or another independent agency. That meeting was canceled, and a city spokeswoman said it likely would be taken up at the council's regular meeting Wednesday.