Jackson County

Coast police chief voted in as city manager a week after announcing retirement. Here’s why.

There’s a new city manager in Pascagoula, and he has a familiar face.

In a special meeting held Tuesday night, the city council voted in Kenny Johnson as the new city manager.

The vote was 4 to 3 to appoint Johnson to serve as interim city manager until current city manager and city attorney Ryan Frederic returns to the job or someone else is hired.

Mayor Dane Maxwell and two other council members, Willie Jones and Stephen Burrow, voted against Johnson’s hiring. The council agreed unanimously to give Johnson an annual salary increase of $2,000.

The move to hire Johnson comes on the heels of him announcing his Oct. 31 retirement as city police chief after 10 years in the job, and 25 total as a city employee.

Many of the council members, Mayor Dane Maxwell said, felt like Johnson had been forced into retiring and his supporters filled city hall Tuesday night.

The need for an interim city manager came up this week, Maxwell said.

“Basically, there was a city manager (Frederic) one day and the next day he had some kind of medical issue and went out on leave,” Maxwell said.

Asked why he voted against Johnson, the mayor said it had a lot to do with the retirement announcement.

“I just don’t think it sets the right precedent when someone retires to turn around and appoint them as interim city manager to run the whole city,” Maxwell said.

Johnson’s supporters filled the city council chambers Tuesday to show their support because they, too, felt like Johnson had been forced out of his job.

The council cast their votes during an executive session and the city clerk relayed the information when the council reconvened.

During the meeting, the council first voted on a motion to appoint Assistant City Manager Frank Corder as the interim manager, but the measure failed for lack of support.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council did vote for Johnson and Corder to work together to hire a city attorney to handle any legal issues during Frederic’s absence.

The Sun Herald reached out to Johnson for comment, but he was not immediately available.

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Margaret Baker is an investigative reporter whose search for truth exposed corrupt sheriffs, a police chief and various jailers and led to the first prosecution of a federal hate crime for the murder of a transgendered person. She worked on the Sun Herald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Hurricane Katrina team. When she pursues a big story, she is relentless.
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