Spring Lake leaders meet as town manager hire remains in limbo

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Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Spring Lake leaders meet as town manager hire remains in limbo
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The special meeting was called after State Treasurer Dale Folwell said that would not approve funds to hire Justine Jones as Spring Lake town manager. The town's mayor says she wants answers.

SPRING LAKE, N.C. (WTVD) -- A week ago, Justine Jones was preparing to start a new chapter as the town manager of Spring Lake. She was supposed to begin her role on Oct. 24, but it's unlikely it will happen

"Ms. Jones has a stellar background, her credentials are solid," said Spring Lake Mayor Kia Anthony following a closed session Board of Aldermen meeting Monday night.

The meeting was called after State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who chairs the Local Government Commission said he would not approve payment to hire Jones.

The LGC took control of the town's finances last year after years of mismanagement of taxpayers' dollars. Folwell said Jones was not the right fit for the job.

"There was no reason for us to believe that she couldn't handle the town. We even involved, five of our department heads," Anthony said. "That's half of our department heads in the interviewing process, and they unanimously chose Ms. Jones as the ultimate candidate, not just the best fit from the selections, but the best fit for the town."

The mayor and board found out about Folwell's decision through local media. In a lengthy statement, Folwell described "new and unsettling information" about Jones's past employment history. It's alleged information that Anthony said was never shared with her or the board

"Ms. Jones was very transparent about what happened at both places of previous places of employment. We conducted criminal background checks, we did credit checks, we checked educational backgrounds, and nothing new or unsettling came in from those background checks," the mayor said. "And so, I just really want to know what this information might be that caused him to make this decision and a decision without, you know, any dialogue or conversation with any of the board or staff here at Spring Lake."

Jones served as the town manager of Kenly, a community of about 2,000 people. She was terminated after three months on the job. Her critics cited a toxic work environment, but a third-party investigation found no wrongdoing.

"Well, she's coming from another community that was a fifth of the size of Spring Lake, meaning Spring Lake, Spring Lake is a big business," Folwell said in a one-on-one interview with ABC11. "I'm not going to back off the fact that taxpayers deserve the highest levels of expertise when it comes to whoever the next town manager is."

Spring Lake has wrestled with major financial woes for the past decade. Folwell said there's no more room for error.

"The people of Spring Lake deserve to have the right amount of expertise that will bring them the transparency and the governance and the competency that they deserve when they send their tax money in," Folwell said.

Spring Lake's Fire Chief is serving as interim town manager until a new town manager is selected.

The board of aldermen meets again next Monday.


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