The entire police force of Kenley, North Carolina, has suddenly quit their jobs in protest of the town’s recently acquired “progressively responsible” manager.
According to Kenley Police Chief Josh Gibson, new town manager Justine Jones has “created a hostile work environment,” leading the chief and his five police officers, along with the town’s assistant manager and a clerk, to resign in protest.
“I have put in my two weeks’ notice along with the whole police department,” Gibson said. Incredibly, Gibson had served with the department for 21 years and was the self-proclaimed “longest-running chief” in the area.
“The new manager has created an environment I do not feel we can perform our duties and services to the community,” he added. He also felt that his department made “substantial progress” in dealing with “ups and downs” over the years.
“However, due to the hostile work environment in the town of Kenly, I do not believe progress is possible,” he wrote in his letter to Jones, without specifying that she was the cause of said environment.
The police chief’s social media announcement and resignation letter did not list specific grievances against Jones. However, he told WRAL that he would consider staying if Jones was let go.
Kenly’s town attorney Chip Hewett said the town would hold an emergency meeting to discuss the public safety situation.
“We just learned about this [Wednesday], it effects the entire police department and staff members, we are looking at having an emergency special meeting to figure out how to move forward with it,” Hewett said.
The town indeed held a closed emergency meeting on the evening of July 22. The details of the meeting were undisclosed. Jones told WRAL that she was “not at liberty to talk because of a personal matter.”
Jones was hired on June 2 following a “nationwide search,” according to a town press release. The town celebrated her hiring, praising Jones for her work in “progressively responsible positions” across several states.
According to WRAL, Jones had several conflicts with past employers. In one case, she filed a lawsuit against a South Carolina county for racial discrimination after she was fired in March 2015.
In the lawsuit, she accused Richland County officials of “hostile” treatment and unfair pay due to her skin color and a disability she had. She also accused the county of discrimination because she was a “whistleblower” for the county’s “fraud, wrongdoing and violations of the law.”
Court records reveal that the lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed in April 2017 without explanation.
Jones described herself on her LinkedIn as “principal CEO” of her own consulting company, Word of Mouth Realtime, before being hired by Kenley. She has two master’s degrees — one in public policy and the other in public administration.
Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said that his deputies will take over for Kenly’s officers for the time being.
“I will be there for the people of Kenly, and they can rest assured they would have deputies patrolling the streets,” he said. “They may be the citizens of the town of Kenly, but they’re still citizens of the county of Johnston, also,” he continued.
Kenley has a population of roughly 2,000 residents.