'I've moved on': Dozens gather for rally to support ousted Kenly town manager

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ByCindy Bae via WTVD logo
Saturday, September 3, 2022
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In the spotlight again in Kenly, former town manager Justine Jones was surrounded by a different crowd on Friday at Temple of Praise, where more than 50 people gathered for a rally

KENLY, N.C. (WTVD) -- In the spotlight again in Kenly, former town manager Justine Jones was surrounded by a different crowd on Friday at Temple of Praise, where more than 50 people gathered for a rally to show their support.

Jones' first public appearance comes three days after the Town of Kenly voted to terminate her contract.

"When I was offered the position as town manager, I was really excited about the difference I can make for the town," Jones said. "I was up for the challenges that came with it, that I never expected within weeks on the job, to find more than half the staff walk out the door."

Jones is accused of creating a hostile work environment that led to the entire police force resigning in August, including the police chief.

But in a letter on Wednesday, Jones said there was "no such finding of wrongdoing by me or my office," in an independent investigation.

ABC11 reached out to both Kenly Mayor Tooie Hales and former Police Chief Josh Gibson for comment on Friday.

"I want to know why," Kenly resident Cheryl Daniels said. "What happened? Why was she terminated?"

Daniels sat in the pew of the church among dozens of others, including elected officials such as Representative Kandie Smith (D-Pitt), who waited for Jones to speak.

"I was an open book," Jones said. "I had nothing to hide. But I knew when these officers got together and collaborated about how they were going to resign from their positions, and they stated hostile workplace; I knew it was bogus because I knew I didn't create a hostile workplace."

Kenly Town Councilmember Lawanda Neal, who was one of the speakers before Jones, prefaced her speech by saying racism does exist, and called for the town to be accountable.

"If it's not a race issue, show us it's not a race issue," Neal said. "Show us it's not. Make it diverse."

Jones started her job as Kenly town manager in June with flying colors, beating out 29 other candidates for the job and was the council's unanimous choice.

"It wasn't good enough, it wasn't fast enough," Jones said. "People have made up in their minds before they even heard from me, that these allegations ... put out here against me were true."

As the last speaker, Jones was welcomed with applause and words of encouragement as she stood up for herself.

"I've moved on, I've made peace with their decision, and you're right, I don't want to come back," Jones said. "But I do know that I have a lot of work left in me, and I know there's a community out here that would value what I bring to the table."