An entire North Carolina police force has resigned, citing a "hostile work environment" created by the newly appointed "progressively responsible" town manager. Although a small police department, the mass exodus came on Wednesday that saw five officers, including the force's chief, handing their resignation to Justine Jones, the new town manager.
According to news sources, Kenly Police Chief Josh Gibson said that he and four other officers sent in their two-week notices late on Wednesday. Gibson said that the town manager's assistant Sharon Evans and the utility clerk Christy Jones have also resigned along with him and his other colleagues in the force.
All in Protest
According to reports, only three part-time policemen are now left in the town of Kenly, which has roughly 2,000 residents, to manage the shrinking force, following the mass exodus. The shocking announcement was made by Gibson in a Facebook post.
"I have put in my 2 weeks notice along with the whole police dept.," Gibson wrote of the force he has served with for 21 years.
"The new manager has created an environment I do not feel we can perform our duties and services to the community," he wrote of Jones, who was hired as the new town manager in June.
Gibson made things official in his resignation letter, according to WRAL. He wrote that despite being the "longest running chief" in the region, he believed his force had recently "made substantial progress" in addressing unnamed "ups and downs."
"However, due to the hostile work environment in the Town of Kenly, I do not believe progress is possible," he told Jones in the letter.
However, he didn't directly name or identify Jones as the source of his complaint as he had done on social media.
Neither his letter nor the post mentioned the specific complaints the department had against Jones. The exiting police chief, though, told WRAL that if Jones was replaced, he might think about staying.
The other two clerks also accused Jones but didn't specify their grievances.
Hard to Handle
Wednesday's mass resignation from the police force will now put Jones under scrutiny.
A short time after mailing the resignation letter, Gibson announced on Facebook that he would be leaving the police and that he was unsure of his future intentions after giving up his long-standing position in early August.
Gibson tagged the names of county clerks Christy Thomas and Sharon Evans, who in their resignation letters stated that they were leaving their respective positions because they were unable to handle the burden Jones brings.
However, Gibson did tell ABC11 that he was frustrated that the department was understaffed and that it added to the stress of the officers and workers. Neither the clerks nor the five officers stated what stress or animosity they were talking to.
The other officers, including Austin Hills, Jason Tedder, G.W. Strong, and Darren K. Pate, concurred with their superior's remarks and expressed their frustration with the atmosphere Jones had fostered at work since she assumed her position less than two months ago.
Jones, the new town manager was hired last month, after "a nationwide search," according to a statement celebrating the hiring of a manager hailed for having "worked in progressively responsible positions" in several states.
However, the press release didn't mention that Jones, a progressive black woman, was also fired almost eight years ago after she unsuccessfully sued her previous employer for gender and racial discrimination, according to WRAL.
Following her termination in March 2015, Jones filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against a former employer in South Carolina. According to court documents, she accused Richland County officials of "hostile" treatment and for being underpaid because she was black and had a disability. She also claimed that the county had treated her unfairly because she had "exposed major fraud, misconduct, and violations of the law" as a "whistleblower."
According to court records, the complaint was voluntarily dismissed in April 2017 without any explanation. Her LinkedIn profile reveals that she represented herself as the "Principal CEO" of her own consulting business, Word of Mouth Realtime, prior to being employed by Kenly.
She has spent the last 16 years in public service, working for local governments in Minnesota, Virginia, South Carolina, and now North Carolina.
In the little town of Kenly, which is located about 45 miles from Raleigh, the majority of the 2,400 citizens are black, making up around 55 percent of the town's population.
When approached by a local publication, Jones said she was "not at liberty to talk because of a personnel matter" and would not comment on the schism, which completely surprised the community's close-knit residents.