Screenshot of a dash cam video showing Dabo Swinney after he was pulled over during a stop in Pickens County.
Pickens, SC (WLTX, WSPA) - A former Pickens police officer says he was wrongly fired in the wake of a traffic stop of Clemson Head Football Coach Dabo Swinney.
Michael McClatchey spoke with reporters Thursday morning, the first time he's addressed his dismissal.
McClatchey pulled over Swinney on September 3 after he says the coach was driving 63 miles an hour in a 35 mile an hour zone. He wrote Swinney a ticket.
Video of the stop shows Swinney and his brother, who was a passenger in the car, discussing the situation in a grocery store parking lot. Swinney was on his way to do his radio show, and on the tape, he can be seen signing autographs for fans.
Pickens Police Chief Rodney Gregory fired McClatchey because he posted his account of the stop on a message board.
However, McClatchey says the computer issue is a "red herring." He claims that the post was originally made from his personal computer and later edited at work, and that personal internet use at the department is common practice and never leads to discipline.
He also said that the manager of the grocery store called Pickens Mayor Dave Owens as the stop was taking place, and the mayor wanted to speak to the officer during the incident. McClatchey's lawyer described the call as an attempt to interfere with law enforcement.
McClatchey also says Swinney called the Pickens police chief at the chief's house the night he was arrested.
The ex-officer and his attorney say they are considering legal action.
The City of Pickens released the following statement:
"The City of Pickens did not terminate Mr. McClatchy for conduct related to the issuance of the citation. His conduct during the traffic stop was professional and he followed all appropriate procedures. Mr. McClatchy was terminated for engaging in private activity on company time on company equipment in addition to violating several general orders. It is important to note that Mr. McClatchy spent an hour and a half during his police shift at the police station "editing" his blog post.
"The City has policies in place where employees who believe they are wrongfully disciplined or terminated may grieve to the Department Head, the Administrator, and finally, the City Council. Mr. McClatchy never made any request to grieve either of his two previous disciplinary warnings or this final action. Instead he has chosen a different route.
"If necessary, the City is fully prepared to defend our decision. However, we will do so in a more proper setting, such as a court room where these matters belong."
Mayor David Owens also released a statement of his own:
"Just to clarify, I did not call the Manager of Bi-Lo or any police officer or the Chief of Police on the evening of the traffic stop. The manager of Bi-Lo called me to inform me of the chaos being caused at Bi-Lo related to the incident. I did not call him. I did ask to speak to the officer involved and when I was informed he was unable to come to the phone, I spoke with the other officer involved at the scene. I told them to continue doing their job and follow the proper procedures because there were a lot of people watching. I never said anything regarding how the ticket should be handled that day or at any time after the traffic stop. The next day, after reviewing the video, I even told Chief Gregory to commend the officers on their professional handling of the situation. I also told Mr. McClatchy personally that he did a great job and that I had seen the video and he handled himself very professionally.
"I took no part in the decision to terminate him and did not even know until later that day."