NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Community members are speaking out against the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office after a Chief Deputy was fired last week.

On Friday, two separate rallies were held in front of the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center, calling on Sheriff Kristin Graziano to reinstate Chief Deputy Joyce Smith.

According to a termination letter obtained by News 2, Smith was fired because of her “willful default on student loans.” The letter references a South Carolina law requiring state employees to be caught up on student loan payments.

On Friday, community members, local leaders, and activists questioned the Sheriff’s decision to fire Smith. Supporters of Smith pointed to the federal student loan moratorium which paused loan payments through the end of August.

Activists were confused why Sheriff Graziano let go of an employee they said has a great reputation and years of experience. Smith worked for the North Charleston Police Department for 25 years, before joining CCSO in late 2020.

Jerome Heyward, a North Charleston City Council Member, said he wants the Sheriff to give Smith her job back. If not, he said he at least wants to see her record cleared.

“This is not a black, white issue, this is an issue that’s not fair across the board. She don’t deserve to lose her job. For all of the service she put in this community,” said Heyward.

During a second rally, activists compared Smith’s termination to a past incident where a CCSO Sheriff’s Deputy accused of making sexually inappropriate remarks towards women was allowed to resign.

One man who spoke said he once supported Graziano, but does not anymore because of this incident. He also said he wants to see Smith reinstated by Monday.

The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office said they do not comment on personnel matter.