Harrison County

A Gulfport official's $12K pay raise is getting backlash on Facebook

Gulfport Public Information Office/Community Relations Manager Chris Vignes, second from left, can often be seen at city events. Here in 2015, he and Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania honor William and Lisa Spares of Gulfport and their 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 W-30 at Cruisin' The Coast. The Spareses not only won the Gulfport Mayor's Choice Cup but also the Car Most Likely to Chase award chosen by Papania.
Gulfport Public Information Office/Community Relations Manager Chris Vignes, second from left, can often be seen at city events. Here in 2015, he and Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania honor William and Lisa Spares of Gulfport and their 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 W-30 at Cruisin' The Coast. The Spareses not only won the Gulfport Mayor's Choice Cup but also the Car Most Likely to Chase award chosen by Papania. amccoy@sunherald.com file

An almost $13,000 raise in Gulfport kicked off a Facebook ruckus over the weekend.

Public Information Officer/Community Relations Manager Chris Vignes got the increase and a new job description at last week's council meeting. Then on Saturday, Shana Blevins McDaniel posted Chief Administrative Officer John Kelly's letter that recommended the new job and raise.

She questioned why Vignes got such a large raise when police officers haven't. Gulfport police officers' pay ranges from $34,329.96 to $41,494.78.

She invited people to share her post, and 110 took her up on that offer. And most of the commenters supported her point of view.

As did Ward 3 Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hinds.

"I can't support that salary at this time," she told the council before voting against the ordinance changing Vignes' job and salary. "I know how important that position of PIO is and how important the police PIO is. It would make a difference if we were looking at salaries in a more comprehensive way. Looking from department to department to department. How many years has it been since they had a raise?"

Ward 5 Councilman Myles Sharp said he, too, would prefer to give raises at budget time, but there was a good reason not to wait in this case.

"We have some very valuable members of our team that we are at great risk of losing to the private sector," Sharp said. "The private sector loves to poach our good people."

Kelly said Vignes was being elevated to management and his new salary is comparable to other managers.

The Sun Herald asked Vignes what he thought about the fuss, but he deferred to Mayor Billy Hewes.

Hewes said he was at a conference of mayors where community outreach was a topic of discussion. At first he said he thought that was something the city needed to add but then realized that Vignes already played that role.

"He has certainly brought value to the city beyond what is in his job description," he said. "We made the decision to create a manager position. He's done a bang-up job."

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