William Bailey, the former public safety director in North Myrtle Beach, has settled a defamation lawsuit he filed against a former city police lieutenant accusing him of spreading lies about Bailey’s actions during a 2009 wildfire that destroyed dozens of homes in the Barefoot Resort neighborhood.
Bailey’s settlement with Randy Fisher is confidential, although Bailey’s lawyer, Ken Moss, said it did involve “the payment of a sum of money to Bailey.”
“The settlement was minor, but it was never about hurting Mr. Fisher, only about defending myself against the unfair accusations made against me,” Bailey said in an email to The Sun News. “I feel this process has done that.”
Fisher said he agreed to the settlement because he wanted to “put the matter behind me.”
“I know the truth, God knows the truth and Mr. Bailey knows the truth,” Fisher said. “That’s the only comment I would want to make.”
Bailey, in court documents, accused Fisher of making false statements about Bailey’s response to the wildfire. Those statements inferred that Bailey and his department were unprepared for the wildfire and that top leadership at the department failed to respond adequately when the flames threatened city homes.
Bailey – who was forced to retire from the city in 2010 for unrelated reasons – also said Fisher made false accusations that Bailey squelched a criminal domestic violence investigation as a political favor and interfered in police calls related to a nightclub owned by one of Mayor Marilyn Hatley’s top campaign supporters.
Charles Thompson, a lawyer who initially represented Bailey, said in court documents that the basis for many of Fisher’s statements “were flimsy or non-existent” and that in a deposition Fisher “admitted that he speculated and made these conclusions without any real factual basis.”
Thompson stopped representing Bailey after an insurance fund operated by the S.C. Municipal Association refused to continue paying for the defamation claim. Moss this week filed a lawsuit against the association seeking information about payments the fund has made for North Myrtle Beach lawyers in other legal actions involving Bailey. Moss said the information should be made public because the association is supported by tax dollars. The association has maintained it is not subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Bailey’s defamation lawsuit was a counterclaim in a larger lawsuit Fisher filed against Bailey and the city in 2011. In that wrongful termination lawsuit, Fisher alleged that he was forced to resign from the police department after a 12-year career because he had been critical of his bosses and raised questions about preferential treatment of some employees. A federal judge dismissed Fisher’s employment claims last year.
Following his forced resignation, Fisher provided The Sun News with copies of recorded conversations he secretly made during a two-year period when he worked at the public safety department. Those conversations included descriptions of Bailey and others making police decisions based on political alliances, officers making crude sexual remarks about female co-workers and crime victims and officers afraid to report alleged misconduct for fear of reprisal.
Fisher said he started recording conversations after he suspected that Bailey was targeting him for firing because he complained about perceived unethical and improper behavior in the department.
Bailey survived the Fisher recordings but was forced to retire in 2010 after former City Manager John Smithson said Bailey lied about the storage of his police handgun, which was stolen from his unlocked truck. Smithson retired shortly after giving Bailey a retire or be fired ultimatum. Bailey, who said he did not lie to city officials, also has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city, which is pending.