Biloxi (MS) Votes Not to Reappoint Fire Chief

Mary Perez and Margaret Baker

The Sun Herald

(MCT)

Jul. 20—BILOXI — Two weeks after Joe Boney announced he intended to retire at the end of the year as Biloxi fire chief, the city council on Tuesday voted 4-3 not to reappoint him.

Voting against Boney’s appointment were council members Nathan Barrett, Robert Deming III, Dixie Newman and Felix Gines.

Voting to approve him were council members Kenny Glavan, Paul Tisdale and George Lawrence.

Boney declined to comment after the meeting.

He will continue to serve for up to 90 days, city attorney Peter Abide said, while Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich has 90 days to choose another appointment for the council’s approval.

Boney just completed about 208 weeks and for 206 weeks, “I didn’t hear a ripple,” Tisdale said. But for the past two weeks, Boney’s appointment has gotten a lot of attention.

“Whoever does not want this chief to continue chose a very good time to raise these issues,” he said.

“For right now there’s just a lot of drama. A lot of smoke,” Tisdale said.

“Voting yes or no on any department head is something I don’t take lightly,” Councilman Barrett said.

These are not lifetime appointments, he said.

“The spectacle with the directors’ appointments that has played out in the media was never supposed to be that,” he said, and those who who were part of it should be ashamed of themselves.

Derrick Gates, president of the Biloxi Firefighters Association, told the council, “I hope the actions of a few shouldn’t overshadow us all as firefighters.”

Gates said, “I feel as news comes out about the actions of a few members of our fire department it will attack the integrity of my brothers and sisters.”

Gates pointed out that firefighters take it upon themselves to get training in emergency medical treatment and paramedic response because they are dedicated to their jobs and respond often to medical emergencies. They do this without any additional pay incentives, he said.

The fire department, Gates said, is shorthanded on staffing, and firefighters have a difficult time getting time off. But, he told council members, that when a firefighter needs to deal with matters like repairing an air conditioner at their home, “then we have to have someone come in on their day off and cover our shift, or cover the time needed to take care of the personal affairs.”

The council did approve the re-appointments of the other directors:

— Michael Leonard, chief administrative officer

— Peter Abide, city attorney and director of the legal department

— Jerry Creel, community development director

— Billy Ray Allen, Department of public works

— Cheryl Bell, parks and recreation

— John Miller, director of the police department

Councilman Felix Gines noted that salaries were increased for these directors, and said that as the council now works through the budget for next year, he hopes the council will also raise the pay of the city employees.

Boney had announced at the July 6 meeting he would resign at the end of the year. Boney said he refused to let someone else write the end of his story after learning the Biloxi Council wasn’t planning to appoint him as fire chief for another four years.

He spent spent 37 years with Biloxi Fire Department and eight years as chief.

Just a day before Tuesday’s vote against Boney’s reappointment, the Sun Herald did an exclusive report on a state auditor’s investigation into Boney and Battalion Chief Stephen Strickler.

A former firefighter had reported allegations of wrongdoing against Boney and Strickler, alleging fraud when they allowed firefighters to do personal repair work at their homes while the firefighters were on the clock in Biloxi.

No charges were brought by the auditor and restitution reportedly was made to the city.

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