Suspended police chief is ready to tell his side of the story

Moss Point Police Chief Art McClung has asked to address the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday night about his July 29 traffic stop in Pascagoula that was reported as reckless driving after an officer clocked him going 109 mph and McClung later admitted to having drank “at least three vodkas.”

Within hours of the Sun Herald’s exclusive story on the traffic stop, the Board of Aldermen called an emergency meeting and voted to indefinitely suspend McClung without pay pending an internal investigation by the city’s Human Resources Department.

“The City Clerk said he had contacted her and he would like to address the board personally,” Alderman Wayne Lennep said Friday, adding McClung also called another alderman to share the same sentiment.

‘I think it will be helpful’

“To be honest, I think it’s fair that he does,” Lennep said. “I’m happy to hear from him. I always want to hear both sides. It’s a better opportunity to have more of a discussion and get more information about the situation. I think it will be helpful.”

McClung has made no indication he will step down, he said.

Pascagoula police stopped McClung after a patrol officer clocked him going 54 mph over the speed limit and passing people “on the right” side of the road. He reported the incident as reckless driving.

After the stop, McClung admitted he had drank “at least three vodkas.” He told police he was on his way to pick up food for his wife.

McClung was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car. The responding officer then called his supervisor to tell him the driver was McClung, and he alerted Pascagoula Police Chief Kenny Johnson.

Pascagoula chief ordered release

Johnson ultimately decided to have a Pascagoula police officer drive McClung home. Johnson said he made that decision after he talked by phone to McClung and “the guy sounded fine to me.”

McClung was not charged or cited for any violation and a report was never written.

The Sun Herald independently learned of the incident and filed a public records request to obtain Pascagoula police audio and video recordings, radio traffic and other information from the stop. In those recordings, police officers can be heard saying such things as “He’s toast. He knows it, too.” Another officer is heard saying such things as “he’s obviously DUI.”

McClung told the Sun Herald he doesn’t drive drunk and balked at the suggestion he’d drive 109 mph.

Pascagoula City Manager Joe Huffman said the city took no action against Johnson or any of the officers involved in the handling of McClung’s case.

Deputy chief in charge

Because of McClung’s suspension, Moss Point Deputy Chief Brandon Ashley is now heading up the Police Department. The Sun Herald reached out to Ashley on Friday for a comment about his new role, but he did not return phone calls.

The Sun Herald also repeatedly tried to reach Mayor Billy Broomfield by phone and email but never heard back.

After the Sun Herald first interviewed McClung in mid-August about the incident, he told the Sun Herald it would have to file public information requests to obtain information.

Lennep had concerns about McClung’s directive to the Sun Herald to file public records request for information.

“It’s not your (the Sun Herald’s) fault,” he said Friday. “The city shouldn’t blame you (the Sun Herald) for reporting on something that happened. The Sun Herald is just reporting what happened.”

Mayor wanted McClung in

When McClung was voted in as police chief in 2014, it was not without contention.

He was pitted against Moss Point native and veteran Pascagoula Police Officer Calvin Hutchins for the job.

At that time, McClung was serving as interim chief, an appointment he received after popular Police Chief Keith Davis resigned.

On Aug. 19, 2014, the board voted 4-3 for Hutchins to be Moss Point’s new police chief. Hutchins said then he planned to restore stability to a department that had been through four police chiefs in a 10-year span.

The next day, Broomfield vetoed the selection and the board failed to override that veto Sept. 2.

By then, Hutchins was saying he wasn’t even sure he’d want the job because the mayor “made it quite clear that he wanted the other candidate.”

McClung was in as police chief a short time later despite citizen protests over the veto and even a petition that had more than 100 signatures in support of Hutchins.

The Sun Herald attempted to reach McClung on Friday, but he did not return calls.

Margaret Baker: 228-896-0538, @Margar45