Only on 12: Police chief, officers quit over feud with mayor

Mayor Mike Miller (WRDW-TV)

Mayor Mike Miller (WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, June 19, 2013

WAGENER, S.C. (WRDW) -- Wendy Kennedy doesn't feel safe in her own home anymore.

"I have a 14-year-old daughter, and she comes home after school sometimes, and I really hate for her to have to come home," says Kennedy.

Weeks ago, a burglar broke into her shed and took a lot from the Wagener woman.

"Let's see, our security, our pride, and they have taken all of our tools that we worked hard for," she says.

However, there's something much bigger that has Kennedy and others concerned. The Wagener Police Department only has two officers on staff right now after a wave of resignations.

"From what I understand, they're resigning because of the mayor, Mike Miller," says Kennedy.

Wagener Town Councilman Joey Black has heard that, too. He says four officers, including longtime Chief Jeff Key, have all left during the past few weeks.

Black says Mayor Miller is part of the reason.

"I've heard it's allegations of scheduling," says Black. "The way the mayor makes the police schedule, they're just not happy, because favoritism is being shown to some officers that we have."

Multiple sources, including former officers, tell News 12 the mayor also made a number of police decisions over the Chief Key's head.

"The mayor is totally responsible for every person he puts on the streets," says Mayor Miller, citing information he heard from a state agency in Columbia.

Mayor Miller says he took actions to fix a police force that wasn't doing its job. He says some of the officers resigned because they're jealous of one officer, Jeremy Hill, who has made a vast effort to work big cases. In 2011, Officer Hill was vital in stopping Kenneth Myers, who police says shot and killed four people before killing himself. Miller says other officers, who have since resigned, didn't want to work as hard as Hill and other officers. He says the police department focused on writing traffic tickets along Highway 39 rather than solving violent offenses and property crimes.

Miller says having just two officers is actually a good thing. He says it'll allow the town to start over with a clean slate.

"We have adequate police protection," says the mayor. "Now, we don't have asteroid insurance, but we've got police protection. Anything can happen."

The mayor says he was not showing favoritism by making the schedule of Officer Hill, a K9 officer. He says he was following logistical advice from other police forces.

Meanwhile, Kennedy, who also works at a local business, is still worried.

"We call our husbands every night to come up there to wait on us to get out of there, so that we know that we're safe to get into our vehicles," she says.

Mayor Miller says he has a number of good applicants that he's sorting through.

Meanwhile, Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt says his deputies will help fill the gap in the meantime.

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