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City council approves Johnson as HPD chief

Jun. 25, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The Huntington City Council has confirmed Mayor Steve Williams' appointment of Jim Johnson as the chief of the city's police department.

Johnson had been serving as interim chief since the resignation of Skip Holbrook in early April.

The confirmation on Monday doesn't change the fact that the mayor is preparing to conduct interviews with finalists recommended by a specially formed search committee.

"(Johnson) understands we are in the midst of a search for a long-term chief," Williams said. "He has said he has no interest in the position for the long-term, and he understands the reason for naming him chief."

Williams removed the "interim" tag from Johnson's job title earlier this month to avoid violating a provision in the city charter that states a city employee may not hold an interim position for longer than 60 days.

Johnson spent 29 years as a member of the Huntington Police Department, but has spent the past five years as the city's constituent liaison to the mayor's office, serving in that role for both Williams and former Mayor Kim Wolfe.

Williams said Johnson has been working as the full-time police chief since taking over in April, despite the interim title.

"He hasn't acted as, nor been given 'interim' responsibilities," the mayor said. "He's taken the reins and led the department effectively.

"I told him my expectation is that we have to keep moving forward. He hasn't made any new long-term directions for the department, because we don't want to hamstring a new chief. But from what we've seen even last night (Monday), with two fatal shootings, we can't just sit idly by. We have to be active."

Johnson's pay has been increased to the lower-level $60,000 range for taking on the police chief's responsibilities.

Once a new chief is selected, Williams said Johnson will be reassigned to his previous role, and will return to his previous salary.

The search committee for a new chief was asked to deliver three finalists that either matched or exceeded Holbrook's qualifications.

According to committee members, those recommendations have been made, but the candidates must go through an extensive background screening process before any interviews are conducted.

Williams said he will release the names of the finalists after the background checks are complete.

Follow reporter Ben Fields on Twitter @BenFieldsHD

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