Lt. James McCready was the commander who during Hurricane Irma brought beer, covered the security camera with a party cup, and encouraged his team — the only officers on duty in North Bay Village — to drink with him. As a result, he was kicked off the hurricane landfall team and benched for a number of weeks.
But that was last year. Wednesday, McCready became the city's acting police chief.
McCready wasn't the city's first choice. In fact, he wasn't really a choice at all. The job fell into his lap after a domino effect of vacancies and one unfortunately timed vacation made him the next ranking officer in line to fill in at the top of the small department, which has just over two dozen sworn officers.
The unexpected vacancy in the role of North Bay Village police chief came after the City Commission approved a settlement with former manager Marlen Martell Tuesday night, removing her from office effective immediately. Per the agreement, Martell waived her right to sue the city, and left on Tuesday with a fat paycheck of $127,000, more than double the normal severance for firing an at-will employee at her salary level.
Her departure left the city's top administrative position empty. So commissioners moved quickly to name police Chief Lewis Velken interim manager until they could find a permanent manager. But a little-known attorney general's interpretation of Florida law prevents a police chief from holding another office in city government.
So when Velken accepted the position of interim city manager, he left the job of police chief empty. By Wednesday morning, the city had filled that vacancy by temporarily promoting the next ranking officer, Lt. Brian Collins, to interim police chief.
Except Collins is on vacation.
So for now the job goes to the only other lieutenant on the force — McCready. According to an email from Velken, McCready will fill in as acting police chief until Collins returns next week.
“Lt. McCready has been reporting to me since my inception as the chief without incident,” said Velken in a statement. “As the Interim Village Manager, the employee serving as the acting chief reports to me. I have no concerns.”