A tiny North Carolina town gave the boot to its newly installed progressive leader, who was blamed for creating a “hostile work environment” that led to the mass resignation of the entire police department.

The Kenly Town Council voted 3-2 during a special session Tuesday to dump town manager Justine Jones just three months into her two-year contract.

The decision followed a month-long investigation of claims by former Police Chief Josh Gibson, his five officers, an assistant town manager and a key clerk — all of whom quit in July.

Kenly's then-Police Chief Josh Gibson.
Kenly’s then-Police Chief Josh Gibson had announced the mass exodus of his officers in a since-deleted July Facebook post, blaming “the hostile work environment.”
Facebook/Josh Gibson

Mayor Tooie Hales told the News & Observer the firing was “not solely related on the investigation and the resignation of the employees.” The majority of the council decided Jones just wasn’t “working out,” he said, without elaborating.

Kenly Mayor Tooie Hales.
Kenly Mayor Tooie Hales told the News & Observer that the council decided Jones was not “working out.”
WRAL

She won’t walk away empty-handed.

Jones’ termination came at the end of a 90-day review period built into her contract; she’ll take home a severance package of about $50,000 — half her salary plus benefits, the news outlet reported.

The fired firebrand, who started as manager June 2, asserted the town’s probe unearthed “no such finding of wrongdoing by me or my office,” as alleged in resignation letters.

“The decision to not communicate the entire story and publicly share the findings of the report is most unfortunate,” she said.

She also thanked backers who found her “a perfect fit for the job” and supported “the difference I was making.”

“Through our conversations, I am confident the citizens of Kenly want a more progressive and equitably served community and will hold all members of council accountable for moving the Town toward that goal,” she wrote.

“Although I was not able to accomplish all the goals in progress in the short time I served the Town, given my untimely departure, my commitment to leaving Kenly better than I found it is an accomplishment I will always be proud of,” she said.

Axed Kenly town manager Justine Jones.
After her firing, Jones said she still believes the “citizens of Kenly want a more progressive and equitably served community.”
Town of Kenly

Kenly has yet to replace any of the resigned cops, with the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office stepping in to police the town.

One of the cops who quit, then-Lt. Jason Tedder, told the News & Observer that the town had already struggled to hire officers even before the scandal.

“No one wants to be a cop … It took us a year to fill two (officer) positions because we don’t get any applications here,” he said.

He said Jones had made it almost impossible for officers to communicate with her, and would give “crazy write-ups” for things like stopping to talk with business owners while on duty.

“I would love to go back … but there needs to be a more professional work environment where people can sit down at a table together,” he said, calling his resignation after 15 years of service “heartbreaking.”

Darren Pate, a patrol officer who resigned, told the News & Observer he was pleased Jones had been fired — but said the friction the scandal created makes it impossible to return to his old job.

“At the last public meeting, the Town Council sent a clear message that they do not all support us by voting to seek a new police chief and then hire new officers,” Pate said. “I just do not feel like that will be a good place for me to go back and work.”



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