DARLINGTON, S.C. (WBTW) — A Darlington City councilwoman is accused of hitting Darlington’s city manager during a council meeting on April 4 after accusing the city manager of being “insensitive to a black person,” according to incident reports obtained by News13.
Councilwoman Sheila Baccus, who won reelection in November 2021, allegedly hit city manager John Payne during an executive session of Tuesday’s city council meeting, according to the report.
The report says that during the meeting, Baccus brought up a matter involving the city’s cherry picker equipment that accidentally hit a power line pulling from a citizen’s property, who was Baccus’ relative, on Tuesday morning. Baccus allegedly accused Payne of ignoring the matter and being “insensitive to a black person.”
In the report, Payne said he tried to defend himself when Baccus then asked him “Are you special needs?” The two then got into a heated discussion as Payne said Baccus was “publicly impugning my dignity and reputation,” accusing him of not responding to texts or calls from Baccus and other councilmembers.
The meeting then went into executive session, according to the report. During that time, Payne allegedly showed Baccus his text log to prove he hadn’t received a text from her. Baccus then allegedly responded by hitting Payne’s hand and almost knocking his phone across the floor.
Payne said in the report that “the violent action displayed by Councilwoman Baccus is disturbing and cause for concern.”
In another incident on March 1, Baccus allegedly locked Payne out of his office after inquiring about why a city council meeting was moved from March 7 to March 14, according to the report. Payne said in the report that Baccus accused him of being racist.
Baccus was then allegedly escorted out of Payne’s office and city hall by police, according to the report. Payne said in the report it “is not fair for city staff to be subjected to this type of behavior, especially by an elected official.”
In another incident during a council meeting on July 12, 2022, Baccus allegedly became angered at an “untrue and unproven” allegation about Payne and said, after pointing to several white councilmembers, “Now when the bullets start flying because black people are not going to tolerate that, don’t act like this council doesn’t know.”
Baccus was accused in July 2020 of telling a Darlington police officer “Take your white self back to the white neighborhood.”
She also filed a lawsuit in April 2021 after claiming “racially motivated” actions by Darlington’s mayor and former city manager.
City manager John Payne told News13 he has no comment because the investigation is ongoing.