The career of a lesbian police chief purportedly fired for her sexuality once again hangs in the balance, just hours after a referendum seemed to confirm that she would be reinstated.

Crystal Moore, former Chief of Police in Latta, South Carolina, was fired by Mayor Earl Bullard in April. A phone recording from the time captured a homophobic tirade from the mayor, in which he said he would rather have an alcoholic look after his child than “somebody whose lifestyle is questionable”.

On Tuesday, residents of the town voted to shift power away from the mayor in order to give its council power to reinstate Moore to her position. The change will not come into effect until the votes are certified on Friday.

Yet local news channel WPDE NewsChannel 15 reported on Wednesday that Mayor Bullard has hired a new police chief, apparently in a final attempt to keep Moore out of the job, with a salary $8000 higher than that which Moore received after 20 years of service.

Freddie Davis, from the Hemingway Police Department, signed a two-year contract without the knowledge of the town council, to replace an interim chief.

Mayor Bullard told the news channel: “The town has to go on. We can’t dwell on what happened in the past. The only thing that we can do is try to move forward. And in that, the way to move forward is to put someone in place permanently.”

However, speaking on MSNBC’s ‘The Last Word’ on Wednesday evening, member of Latta town council Jarett Taylor suggested that the new appointment might itself be illegal.

“He needed council approval to do that,” he said. “We’re going to test his ability to put the new chief under contract.” He explained that the council intends to fire Davis and rehire Moore as soon as the votes are certified.

Moore also appeared on the programme. “It’s like a nightmare that will not stop,” she said. “We’re not going to give up.”