by Calvin Ishee

In what one Alderman called a “coup” for the City, the Pass Christian Board of Alderman voted unanimously to hire Chad Sims as the new Assistant Chief of Police. Sims has been in law enforcement since 1997 and has been with the Gulfport Police Department since 1999. He served in a variety of leadership roles whereby he was promoted to Sergeant in 2007, Detective Sergeant in 2015 and Lieutenant in 2018.

Assistant Chief Sims is a graduate of the Harrison County Law Enforcement Training Academy at the University of Southern Mississippi and recently completed the 480 hour long 143rd Administrative Officer Course for executive police command personnel. He attended this course through the Southern Police Institute offered through the University of Louisville where he excelled as the valedictorian of his class.

Police Chief Daren Freeman stated that Sims was selected by a committee of local residents appointed by each member of the Board of Alderman. Unfortunately their names were not made available before press time.
Just last week the Planning Commission recommended changes to the SmartCode that included a name change from SmartCode to The City of Pass Christian’s Development Code as well as the elimination of the Zoning Board, revisions to portions of the Specific Function Chart (Use Chart), process and approval changes, etc. As noted by several Board members most of the changes were routine and/or symbolic in nature since Most of the SmartCode remains unchanged.

Outgoing City Planner Danit Simon stated that many of the proposed changes, to include the new name, was based on specific requests from Commissioners and that other changes were made to simplify and clarify the code. She also noted the negative connotations associated with the SmartCode name and the abuse expressed towards the City by those not happy with the SmartCode. Mayor Chipper McDermott commented that when he gets another chance he’s “going to cut some more out of this thing”.

When Mayor McDermott opened the floor for Public Comment, local resident Francis Hoffman rose again to express her vehement objection to the proposed changes.

Hoffman stated that Simon’s comments were “disingenuous” and called the changes “kind of really extreme”. She also questioned potential conflict of interest and conduct of some of the Commissioners. Simon rose and refuted Hoffman’s allegations and stated “the changes she’s saying we did, did not occur!”

City Attorney Malcolm Jones asked to address the Board and he immediately came to the defense of Simon and the Planning Commission. He passionately commented that “It is unfair to make statements that Ms Hoffman made about the Commissioners and conflict of interest. The Commission has been working on this for months and had a four hour meeting that I attended. This was an attempt to make this better. I think it’s very unfair to people that are volunteers to be called out for having conflict of interest and a hidden agenda…it’s not fair to throw stones at them.” He furthered noted that Hoffman has had her say and that it’s “not fair to say we’ve rushed this through.”

By a vote of four for the ordinance change, none against and one abstention, the proposed changes were approved. Ward 3 Alderman Anthony Hall abstained because he said he wasn’t given enough time to read all of the proposed changes.

In personnel matters, the Board approved the re-advertising of the recently vacated City Planner position; the appointments of Lou Rizzardi, Terry Gibson and Melinda Taylor to the Pass Christian Tree Board; pay increases for several Police Officers that recently completed their certification; appointed Chris Fields as a non-paid volunteer to assist the Fire Chief as the Deputy Emergency Management Director and the removal of Public Works Director Russell Holliman from the Water Adjustment Committee and replacing him with Harbor Master Marty Tiller.

In the financial arena taxpayer dollars were approved for stair repairs at Fire Station 2 in the amount of $4,500, $4,280 to Overstreet & Associates, the retention of Stone, McElroy and Associates to conduct pre-employment law enforcement psychological evaluations at a flat rate of $325 per candidate and $195,824.15 to pay for operating costs. Also the Fire Department was given permission to pursue a “no cost to the City” grant of $33,180, to purchase new cordless and waterproof extrication tools.

Two Executive Sessions were held and the first involved a personnel matter in the Police Department. After five to ten minutes the Board announced that no action had been taken.

The second Executive Session involved a settlement of pending litigation between the City and Transoceanic/Halliburton.

Although the “specifics” of the case were not provided, City Attorney Malcolm Jones announced that the City had agreed to a settlement that results in a payment of $243,618.12 to the City. After attorney fees the net amount is $194,894.50.

Just before the meeting concluded the BOA approved the addition of an agenda item that gave City Attorney Malcolm Jones the authority to represent the City in a lawsuit recently filed by Hoffman.