After combing through a strong list of candidates from around the country, board members found a new leader for the Mobile County Communication District (MCCD) already sitting at the table — this morning the board voted 4-1 to promote Acting Director Charlie McNichol to the job full time beginning July 1.

Seventeen applications were received and reviewed by a personnel committee chaired by board member Trey Oliver, who “put together a process” that ultimately whittled the list down to three who were presented to the full board.

Mobile County Communications District

Mobile County Communications District

During the regular meeting May 12, the board went into executive session to discuss the final candidates to replace former Director Gary Tanner, who the board terminated following an internal investigation of the district’s management practices.

“I will make a motion that, of the top three candidates, Mr. Charlie McNichol be approved as the executive director,” board member Robert Adams said. “It will be a one-year probation. This would take effect July 1 after the personnel committee and the board can have sufficient time to review salary, job description and related matters.”

Adams was joined in supporting McNichol by board members Jeff Reeves, Cynthia Coleman and President Stephen Bowden, while Oliver abstained from voting. The vote in opposition came from retired Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, who currently serves as the city of Mobile’s executive director of public safety.

Though the personnel committee and ultimately the full board will set McNichol’s salary, it will likely be more than the $83,000 he had been receiving as deputy director. Before he was removed from the position February, Tanner was making upwards of $126,000 as director.

While the details are still being ironed out, some of the board members — many of whom are still newly appointed — are glad to be moving forward after a tumultuous year.
“I respect the board’s decision and their efforts to get this done so we can continue answering the calls of the public,” McNichol said following the vote. “With a new board and a new director, going forward, I feel like we’ll only be making progress in a positive way.”

For now, it’s unclear whether the board will begin looking at candidates for McNichol’s former position or if the district will continue to operate with a deputy director at all. Calls to Adams to clarify the board’s intentions weren’t immediately returned.

McNichol first took the job as MCCD’s deputy director in July 2013, after Tanner was promoted to director from the same position. Oliver also recommended McNichol for the job in 2013, and unlike Thursday, voted to approve his appointment — something he didn’t find to be a conflict of interest at the time.

A former assistant police chief with the city of Daphne, McNichol was later a law enforcement coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Mobile, though he was forced to resign from his federal job after being convicted of a misdemeanor for leaking sensitive information related to the criminal case against former Orange Beach Mayor Steve Russo.

McNichol also spent a brief period in the private sector, working for DRC Group in Louisiana before returning to the take the job with MCCD.

With the director’s vacancy out of the way, MCCD is now just one board member short of a full roster. Since Citronelle Police Chief Shane Stringer resigned his seat on the board in February, the group has been waiting on the Mobile County Commission to appoint his replacement — a process that has proved lengthy in recent history.
Mobile County Attorney Jay Ross has been attending MCCD board meetings in recent months, and said on Thursday that county commissioners were “seeming to come to a relative consensus.”

“In past pattern and practice, this particular position has been offered to the chairman or president of the Mobile County Police Chiefs Association,” Ross said. “The commission has been looking at someone who is a police chief in a small municipality to take that role. There’s an interview Monday, and I’ll know better how that turns out later that morning.”

Ross said it’s likely a new board member could be appointed by the MCCD’s next regular meeting in June, though he made similar comments at last month’s board meeting.