The City Council and Mayor Les Fillingame on Tuesday selected an interim police chief for a six-month term, filling the vacancy left by the late Mike De Nardo.
Daren Freeman, a Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper who served as the director of MHP’s internal affairs division, will fill the position, Fillingame said.
The mayor said he would have Freeman hired “by tomorrow.”
“I would very much appreciate that,” Capt. Wes Mayley said of the decision.
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Mayley became the department’s ranking officer upon De Nardo’s death. Since then, he has maintained he has no desire to remain in charge.
Eager to hand over the reins, Mayley told the council that hiring Freeman would be the best decision for the department and the city.
Freeman was a prominent candidate early in the search process, which took Fillingame’s administration 90 days to complete. The mayor selected him in early December, but his appointment was delayed due to various factors, including an ongoing federal corruption investigations and the council’s inquiry on a administrative takeover by the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office and the FBI are still investigating payroll fraud allegations, among other things. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office of the State Auditor are still probing the whereabouts of more than $300,000 in drug forfeiture money that was improperly mingled into the city’s general operating account.
Before Tuesday’s meeting, the council held a workshop to address concerns from citizens regarding a potential administrative takeover of the Police Department by Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam.
The workshop attracted so many residents, the council chambers overflowed with people who were forced to stand outside because of limited space. Many of those who attended berated the council for what they seemed to believe was a dismantling of the Police Department.
However, the council’s idea of an administrative takeover is primarily just a change in leadership, Councilman Lonnie Falgout said.
The sheriff, instead of the mayor, would have authority over the department, similar to the Diamondhead Police Department.