NORWAY, SC (WIS) – Norway Mayor Jim Preacher has been arrested. SLED agents arrested Preacher Tuesday on charges of impersonating a police officer and misconduct in office.
"They came to the office. I was on my golf cart, coming back from doing some work in town and they said they have two warrants for me," Preacher said.
Arrest warrants allege Preacher had no authority, as mandated by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, to make a traffic stop on a South Carolina Highway Patrolman who had pulled Preacher over minutes before.
Preacher was cited for driving the city's Dodge Charger 70 mph in a 55 mph zone.
After he was given the ticket, the trooper's dash cam video shows Preacher make a U-turn and turn his lights and sirens on to make a stop on the trooper.
Preacher asked the trooper for his license and told the trooper he was interfering with a police officer.
Preacher claims he was serving in his duties as village constable when he stopped the trooper. He has since resigned his duties as Norway's chief constable.
"He told me that Norway had no police department and I couldn't be the mayor and a police officer," Preacher said.
The state Department of Public Safety launched an investigation into the stop the following day. After reviewing the tapes, DPS turned their investigation over to the State Law Enforcement Division to determine whether Preacher violated state law in stopping the trooper. SLED is also investigating whether Preacher had any police powers, since his law enforcement certification records show that his certification is "inactive" with the academy.
SLED turned its investigation over to the state attorney general's office for an opinion as to whether Preacher has police powers, and the authority to conduct traffic stops. Attorney General Alan Wilson has not issued an opinion.
"Probably some of it is my fault for trying to protect the people that thought they were being robbed. The man had a gun at the store. I think I was duty-bound to do something," Preacher said.
Another arrest warrant says Preacher instructed Norway's town clerk to pay him a salary equal to what the previous Norway police officer was making in addition to his salary as the town's mayor without council approval.
The warrant goes on to say Preacher hired his own son, James Arren Preacher, III, to a position at the town's Water Treatment Department without approval.
Preacher laughed at the charges being brought against him. "I probably shouldn't be talking about this. I just don't think I've done anything wrong," he said.
Preacher was released from jail on $15,000 bond. He maintains his innocence and his job as mayor. He'll be back in court in June.