Wiggins Mayor Vetoes Chief's Reappointment

The Wiggins chief of police says he faces an uncertain future. On Friday. Mayor Ferris O'Neal sent a letter to the Board of Alderman vetoing their re-appointment of Steve Compston as police chief. With enough votes, the Board could override the mayor's veto this Tuesday night. Until then Compston's future with the department hangs in the balance.

Chief Compston says he was shocked when the mayor rejected his re-appointment. He says he hadn't realized the mayor had so many concerns about the department's leadership.

"It kind of caught me by off guard," Compston said. "I knew we had discussed some things he wanted to see corrected in the department but I didn't know it was to the degree that it warranted a veto of my appointment."

Mayor Ferris O'Neal says he told the Board of Aldermen he needed time to thoroughly evaluate the city's departments and their heads before agreeing to any appointments. He says when the Board made the appointments before he could finish his study, he felt he had to veto two of the five recommendations.

"I vetoed those two appointments, the police chief and the public works superintendent until I could have some more time to evaluate those departments and try to get the performance up to the level that I think it should be," O'Neal said.

Mayor O'Neal says he isn't sure how long his evaluation will take but the delay should not affect city business. Right now he says there are no plans to replace the city's top law enforcement official. In the meantime,Compston says the controversy is taking its toll on the Wiggins Police Department.

"Morale is down, the uncertainty," Compston said. "We thought things were going in a positive direction and then this occurs."

The mayor did endorse the board's appointments for city court clerk, city clerk and fire chief. He would not specify his reasons for vetoing the police chief and public works appointments.

by Danielle Thomas