BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Ward 4 Biloxi Councilman Robert Deming is renewing his calls to eliminate the position occupied by Cliff Kirkland, insisting it has nothing to do with his arrest.
“I’ve been against this position for a long time, multiple budget sessions,” he said. “I just don’t think the tree has borne enough fruit to justify the fertilizer.”
Deming said the city council approved the position of Civic Innovation and Development Officer, which was retroactively put under civil service coverage. He added the city has the right to cut the job.
“I’m not advocating that we fire anyone and hire someone new,” Deming added. “I’m advocating that we eliminate the position altogether. I think it’s redundant. I think we have numerous people doing the same thing in the city for the city.”
Deming, who is also an attorney, said he isn’t going to react hastily to the charges against Kirkland.
“My general reaction to the charges is probably the same as everybody’s general reaction initially,” he said. “However, this is the United States of America, and everybody is innocent until proven guilty.”
The reaction by Biloxi Public Affairs Manager Vincent Creel is as much personal as professional.
“This is somebody that I’ve known for 30 years. Worked with at the newspaper; worked with at a casino; worked with here at city hall under two mayors, Mayor (A.J.) Holloway and Mayor (Andrew) Gilich,” he said. “You know to hear something like this, it’s just shocking.”
As related to the actual position, Creel said Gilich is still a big supporter.
He said Kirkland was the point person who navigated through contracts and fundraising projects, such as the effort to build the new Keesler Air Force Base main gate and develop an economic corridor on Division Street.
“There’s something to be said for having someone who can help clear the path whenever you need to go through the policies and procedures - everything you need to go through, the requirements, to do business in the city," Creel said.
He added the work has to continue.
“Nobody is indispensable,” Creel said. “We’ve been through a bunch of things in this city. And what do we do? We come in and we do our job just like the taxpayers and the mayor and council expect us to do.”
Creel said that Gilich has not talked to Kirkland, but he is pushing for a thorough, but expedient resolution.