After a disciplinary hearing Monday, the board of directors of the Mobile County Communications District (MCCD) handed a 90-day suspension to Director Charlie McNichol, who was arrested by Daphne police last month for driving under the influence.
Mobile Police Department Assistant Chief Roy Hodge, chairman of the MCCD board, said McNichol will not be paid during his suspension. He was also stripped of a pay raise he was awarded last year for a one-year period, and he will no longer be able to drive a vehicle owned by the MCCD.
“We took the vehicle off the table and absolved ourselves of that liability,” Hodge said. The board voted 6-1 to adopt the disciplinary measures. Board member Cynthia Coleman voted in opposition.
Hodge said according to the MCCD’s rules and regulations, any employee accused of a similar crime would face a similar disciplinary hearing, although in most cases, the director would preside over the hearing. In McNichol’s absence, his duties have been assigned to two other employees.
It was McNichol’s second alcohol-related charge in two years. In 2019, he pleaded guilty to public intoxication in Spanish Fort, although the conviction was waived after he paid court costs, completed a DUI class and remained free of criminal charges through March 2020. Hodge said after McNichol’s previous arrest, MCCD voted to suspend his vehicle privileges for 60 days.
“It was a different situation with a public intoxication charge,” he said.
In Daphne, police allege McNichol was found asleep behind the wheel of his district-issued SUV at 4 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31. The arrest report does not indicate whether he submitted to a breathalyzer, but it notes McNichol’s condition was “drunk.” He posted a $1,000 bond and was released at approximately 3:37 p.m. the same day. His court date is tentatively set Dec. 8.
Hodge said at the disciplinary hearing Monday, McNichol was able to defend himself in an executive session. Hodge said the board’s decision represents “major sanctions,” but he believes McNichol remains uniquely qualified to retain the job.
“He’s the sixth or seventh director since the board’s inception in 1988,” Hodge explained. “In the short time he’s been director, there’s been a transformation under his leadership matched by none. He’s done a good job in that position and that weighed heavily in my decision.”
MCCD receives 911 calls in the county and dispatches first responders. It is also responsible for all radio communications for the county and local municipalities. McNichol has worked at MCCD since 2013 and was appointed director in July 2016, after the board terminated the employment of Gary Tanner following an internal investigation of management practices.
The board waived a residency requirement for the director’s position after McNichol was hired, according to Hodge, and McNichol lists an address in Loxley as his primary residence. Hodge said while McNichol’s pay raise may be restored after one year, there is no plan to restore his vehicle privileges.
“Anything can change, but he created this for himself and the board,” he said. “As it stands, there is no plan to let time pass and give the vehicle back.”
Hodge also told Lagniappe he is unaware of any other alcohol-related incidents involving McNichol. For his part, McNichol offered a statement to say “I am thankful that the MCCD Board of Commissioners carefully considered all aspects of the situation and voted to retain me as the Director. I am utilizing this time to work on my health and I am currently in treatment for a personal issue. I am committed to, and looking forward to returning and leading MCCD and serving the citizens of Mobile County.”
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