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The Kenley City Council voted to fire its recently-hired town manager on Tuesday, about one month after the entire police department for the 2,400-person North Carolina town resigned, citing increased stress and a hostile work environment for their decision.
Justine Jones beat a field of 30 candidates to become the new town manager in June. The Kenley City Council cited her 16-year career in public service at the time with local governments in Minnesota, Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, saying Jones was their “unanimous choice.”
About two months later in late July, all five police officers and two town clerks suddenly resigned from their positions.
“In my 21 years at the Kenly Police Department, we have seen ups and downs. But, especially in the last 3 years, we have made substantial progress that we had hoped to continue,” the former police chief, Josh Gibson, wrote to Jones on July 20, according to a copy of the letter obtained by WRAL.
“However, due to the hostile work environment now present in the Town of Kenly, I do not believe progress is possible.”
Other former town employees also cited a “hostile work environment,” while one former officer wrote in his resignation letter that there are “decisions being made that jeopardize my safety.”
Kenly Mayor Tooie Hales said that an investigation didn’t uncover evidence of a toxic work environment, but the city council voted 3-2 to terminate Jones on Tuesday because they didn’t “feel like we were moving in the right direction.”
“Our decision to terminate the contract is not solely based on the investigation, but there are a lot of other factors, and we have to look for the best way to move forward for the town,” Hales told a gaggle of reporters after the vote.