Jackson County

Byrd's resignation letter says it's effective Dec. 31

PASCAGOULA -- A "solemn" Mike Byrd met the president of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors on the side of Mississippi 63 on Wednesday evening and delivered his resignation as sheriff.

Board President Mike Mangum then held a press conference on the steps of the courthouse with other supervisors.

In the letter, Byrd says he will not leave office until the end of the year, even though in federal court Tuesday he pleaded guilty to a felony charge.

In Mississippi, felons are not allowed to hold public office.

The letter said: "I hereby tender my resignation as the duly elected and acting Sheriff of Jackson County, Mississippi effective 11:59 p.m., December 31, 2013.

"During the interim (between the date of this letter and December 31, 2013), Ken Broadus, Chief Deputy of the Sheriff Department of Jackson County, Mississippi, will fulfill my obligations and responsibilities as Sheriff of Jackson County, Mississippi."

When asked if it is acceptable for Byrd to stay in office for almost three more weeks, Mangum said, "That's a good question. I don't know what the attorney general might do."

By state law, it falls to the attorney general to remove a felon from office.

When asked how county leaders felt about it, Mangum said, "We'll work with what we got. We're looking for an opportunity to move forward."

Receipt of the notice of resignation frees county leaders to take action to replace Byrd.

Supervisors John McKay, Melton Harris and Barry Cumbest stood with Mangum and each expressed his interest in moving forward and getting past the "black eye" Byrd has given the county.

Mangum said they will discuss Byrd's staying in office until the end of the year with the county legal team.

Mangum said the board will officially request resumés Monday from all parties interested in becoming interim sheriff. He said supervisors hope to have an interim selected by the Jan. 6 board meeting.

District Attorney Tony Lawrence said in a statement Wednesday, "I'm not sure why the sheriff chose December 31, 2013, for his resignation date, but it prevents the supervisors from appointing an interim sheriff until January 1, 2014.

"My office will check the law and consult with the attorney general's office to determine the effect of the letter the sheriff turned in today. It appears the sheriff has relinquished his duties as sheriff but I'm unsure as to why he chose the effective date as December 31, 2013.

"I would hope the sheriff will reconsider and clarify the effective date of his resignation."

Byrd had tried to deliver the letter Wednesday morning at Mangum's office in Pascagoula, but Mangum was in Jackson on business.

Byrd contacted him later Wednesday and made arrangements to give him the letter when Mangum returned.

When asked what Byrd said when he delivered the letter, Mangum said, "He was solemn. He handed it to me and said, 'I believe you've been looking for this.'"

The top of the letter is dated Dec. 11, 2013, and says "HAND DELIVERED."

Byrd's federal felony conviction involved wrongdoing related to the June 2012 arrest of John Mark Stahl, accused in the theft of deputy Christopher Goff's patrol car.

In addition to the federal case, Byrd is still facing 29 felony and two misdemeanor offenses in state court.

Byrd is scheduled to appear today in Circuit Court for a status conference in his state case. Special Judge William Coleman is presiding.

Karen Nelson, Sun Herald staff writer, contributed to this report.