A self-described “progressive” municipal manager who prompted an entire North Carolina town’s police force to resign has been fired after an investigation into whether she had created a toxic work environment.
Justine Jones, who Kenly Police Chief Josh Gibson in July accused of creating a “hostile work environment,” had her contract terminated by a 3-2 town council vote Tuesday night. The vote followed a month-long probe of the allegations leveled by Gibson, whose five-man force and a handful of other town employees followed him out the door.
“The allegations made against me were timely and thoroughly vetted by independent sources and there was no such finding of wrongdoing by me or my office,” Jones said in a statement. “The decision to not communicate the entire story and publicly share the findings of the report is most unfortunate.”
#ICYMI: I spoke one-on-one with Kenly’s mayor moments after town council voted 3-2 to terminate the town manager’s contract.
— Aaron Thomas (@WRALAaron) August 31, 2022
“The findings … did not really justify a toxic environment,” Kenly Mayor Herbert Hale told WRAL after the meeting. “Our decision to terminate a contract is not solely based on the investigation.”
Jones, who is black and previously unsuccessfully sued another municipal employer for discrimination, took on the role in June. Less than a month later, Gibson announced his resignation in a Facebook post that did not include specific complaints.
“I have put in my 2 weeks notice along with the whole police dept.,” wrote Gibson, who had been on Kenly’s force for 21 years. “The new manager has created an environment I do not feel we can perform our duties and services to the community.”
It was not clear if the Gibson and his police officers would return o their old jobs, although Gibson wrote in his resignation letter he would consider coming back to work if Jones was fired.
Kenly, located about 45 miles southwest of Raleigh, has a population of just under 2,000. Its nickname is “Friendly Kenly.” Jones insisted that she had been a positive force in the town during her abbreviated tenure.
“Having been selected for the position from 30 other candidates, I believe I was selected because my core principles clearly spoke to who I am as a leader and this same management philosophy guides me in performing my job professionally, with integrity, transparency, loyalty, fairness and accountability,” she wrote.