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All full-time police officers — including chief — resign from town's force, citing 'hostile work environment,' 'stress' after new town manager started last month

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Image source: WRAL-TV video screenshot

All full-time police officers — including the chief — resigned from the force in Kenly, North Carolina, on Wednesday over a "hostile work environment" and "stress" after the new town manager came onboard last month.

What are the details?

The town of about 2,000 — which is about 50 minutes southeast of Raleigh — will soon be left with just three part-time officers, WRAL-TV reported.

The Kenly police force was short staffed before the resignations, down from eight officers to five, Chief Josh Gibson told the station.

What's more, two town clerks also submitted letters of resignation, leaving Kenly without seven full-time positions, WRAL reported.

Kenly's attorney Chip Hewett announced a 7 p.m. Friday emergency meeting to discuss how the town will handle public safety in the wake of the resignations, WRAL added.

The resignation letters point to a hostile work environment since new town manager Justine Jones came aboard about a month ago, the station said, adding that Gibson and his five officers made it clear their complaints were not over pay.

Gibson said in his resignation letter that while Kenly made "substantial progress that we had hoped to continue," the chief said he no longer believed progress was possible with Jones as town manager, WRAL reported. Gibson also cited a "hostile work environment" in his letter; other letters cited "stress."

In a statement on Facebook, Gibson said Jones "has created an environment [in which] I do not feel we can perform our duties and services to the community," the station added.

Gibson said he'd consider returning to the police force if Jones was dismissed, WRAL said.

The station said Jones declined an interview, citing a "personnel matter."

New town manager sued her previous employer

Jones, who is black, sued her previous employer — Richland County, South Carolina — for gender and racial discrimination after she was terminated, WRAL said, adding that the lawsuit indicates she worked as manager of research and was an assistant director.

She alleged "hostile" treatment from Richland County leaders and her supervisor, the station said, as well as retaliation after she reported bad behavior. In addition, WRAL said Jones claims in the lawsuit that she wasn't paid fairly and treated differently due to illness.

Jones was terminated on March 30, 2015, the station said, adding that the lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed. WRAL said court records don't reveal why the case was dismissed.

After she was fired from her job in Richland County, Jones worked at her own consulting company. Kenly hired her June 2, 2022, the station said.

The Kenly Town Council selected Jones after a "nationwide search" of 30 candidates, the station added, citing a town press release. Jones worked in public service for the last 16 years in local governments in Minnesota, Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, WRAL said.

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