An entire North Carolina police force has quit in protest at the town’s newly hired “progressively responsible” town manager — who the police chief said created a “hostile work environment.”
Kenly Police Chief Josh Gibson made the shock announcement in a Facebook post on Thursday, saying that the assistant town manager and a key clerk had joined him and his five officers in quitting in protest.
“I have put in my 2 weeks notice along with the whole police dept.,” he 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 Justine Jones, who took up the position early last month.
He made it official with a formal letter of resignation to Jones herself, according to a copy obtained by WRAL.
Noting that he was “the longest running chief” in the area, he said that he felt his force had recently “made substantial progress” in dealing with unspecified “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, without identifying her as the source of his complaint as he had done on social media.
Neither the post nor his letter spelled out specific grievances the officers had against Jones. However, the exiting police chief told WRAL he would consider staying if Jones was dismissed.
The town called an emergency closed meeting for Friday night.
Jones declined to discuss the drastic move, telling WRAL she was “not at liberty to talk because of a personnel matter.”
She had started on June 2 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.
The release did not mention, however, how she had sued a previous employer in neighboring South Carolina for racial discrimination after she was fired in March 2015, according to WRAL.
She accused Richland County leaders of “hostile” treatment and for not paying her fairly because she was black and had a disability, court docs show. She also accused the county of discriminating against her because she was a “whistleblower” who “reported serious fraud, wrongdoing, and violations of the law.”
The lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed in April 2017, court records show, without elaborating on why.
Before getting hired by Kenly, she listed herself as “Principal CEO” of her own consulting company, Word of Mouth Realtime, her LinkedIn shows.
Meanwhile, Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell assured WRAL that his deputies would be “stepping up” to cover for the missing Kenly cops.
“I will be there for the people of Kenly, and they can rest assured they will have deputies patrolling the streets,” he insisted.