Kenly votes 3-2 to terminate the contract of town manager at center of independent investigation

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Wednesday, August 31, 2022
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The town council voted 3-2 to terminate the contract of Kenly Town Manager Justine Jones. It comes after the resignation of the entire police force.

KENLY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Kenly's town manager is out of a job.

In a special session Tuesday evening, the Town voted 3-2 to terminate the contract of Town Manager Justine Jones.

Jones had been at the center of an independent investigation after the town's entire police force resigned on Aug. 2 citing a hostile working environment. The former police chief, Josh Gibson, said it was Jones who made work conditions unbearable.

An outside agency had been investigating the claim made against Jones. The investigation was supposed to wrap up at the end of the week that began Aug. 8.

"The findings didn't really justify a toxic environment," Kenly Mayor Tooie Hales said. "And so again, our decision to terminate the contract is not solely based on the investigation, but there are a lot of other factors, and we had to look for the best way to move forward for the town."

Hales said Jones will work through the end of the week. He would not elaborate on "personnel matters."

"The investigation aside, we looked at the best way for the town to move forward," Hales said. "And we made the best decision we could."

The mayor added that "sometimes "things just don't fit well."

In a news release from the Town of Kenly, Jones beat out 29 other candidates for the job and was the council's unanimous choice. She started as town manager in June.

Only two residents showed up to Tuesday's emergency meeting. Both were visibly upset about the council's decision.

"They chose her unanimously amongst 30 people and now she doesn't fit," said Denise Bennet. She asked how was Jones not a good fit for Kenly. "What could have happened between those 36 to 37 days?"

Hales said earlier this month that they're working to find a police chief and will build the department from there. There's a committee to help with the search.

"Folks are being contacted," Hales said Tuesday night of the search. "We going to get together and hopefully get that process going soon."

Hales said this is a "clean slate" and they wouldn't consider hiring back Gibson or any of the former officers.

"We're going to keep working hard, try to do the best we can for the town, hit the reset button," Hales said. "Obviously, we'll start the process again of finding the right town manager for the town."

The Johnston County Sheriff's Office has supplied deputies to patrol the town until a new police force is in place.