Entire NC police dept WALKS, cites ‘hostile’ work environment after hire of new town manager

(Video Credit: CBS 17)

The entire police force and other officials in Kenly, North Carolina have resigned due to a hostile work environment and being overworked after a new town manager was hired.

Resignations started flying on Friday in the small town of roughly 2,400 residents. The letters of resignation blamed stress, a hostile work environment, and an inability to continue the department’s long-term betterment projects, according to Fox News.

Police Chief Josh Gibson, who is beloved by many in the town, wrote a letter to Town Manager Justine Jones expressing his sorrow over negative changes being made to his department which are forcing him to leave his position.

“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. However, due to the hostile work environment now present in the Town of Kenly, I do not believe progress is possible,” Gibson bluntly wrote.

(Video Credit: ABC11)

According to WRAL, Gibson said he would consider returning to the police force if Jones were dismissed. He cannot comment on the circumstances surrounding his resignation because of legal proceedings connected to it.

The police force in Kenly should have had 8 full-time officers. It has been making do with 5. Now, the county will reportedly take over.

Other resignations followed Gibson’s during a mass exodus of personnel.

“It is with a heavy heart that I take this action. I have been with the town since 2004 and fully expected to finish my law enforcement career with the Town of Kenly. Unfortunately, there are decisions being made that jeopardize my safety and make me question what the future will hold for a Kenly Police Officer,” Officer G.W. Strong wrote in his letter.

Some addressed their resignations to Gibson. But the police chief handed his in person to Jones.

Police leadership and active duty officers were joined in their resignations by other town officials as well.

“I have truly enjoyed working for The Town the last four years. Due to the current situations and the stress in the work area lately, my main concern is my health, and right now I need to focus on my wellbeing. The work area is very hostile and I will not let myself be around that kind of atmosphere,” Christy Thomas, utility clerk for the town of Kenly, wrote.

“I will be retiring sooner than I had planned. This is my two weeks notice as of today. I can no longer work under the stress,” wrote Town Clerk Sharon Evans.

Jones was hired in June after serving in various local government positions in other states.

“Jones has dedicated her career to public service over the last 16 years during which she worked in progressively responsible positions with local governments in Minnesota, Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina,” the town wrote in a press release. “She began her municipal career as the Executive Assistant to the City Manager and National Urban Fellow in the City of Norfolk, Virginia”

She sued her previous employer, Richland County, SC, for gender and racial discrimination after she was terminated, according to WRAL. The lawsuit states that she worked as a manager of research and was an assistant director.

Jones asserted “hostile” treatment by Richland County leaders and her supervisor in retaliation for reporting bad behavior. She claims in the lawsuit that she was not paid fairly and was treated differently than other employees due to illness.

She was fired on March 30, 2015. The lawsuit was later dismissed. Court records don’t reveal why.

After being terminated from her job in Richland County she worked in her own consulting company before being hired in Kenly on June 2, 2022.

Jones was selected by the town council after a “nationwide search” of 30 candidates, according to the press release.

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