by Stacy M. Brown,
NNPA Newswire senior national correspondent
After completing a nationwide search that yielded 30 candidates, the Kenly Town Council announced Justine Jones, a Black woman, as their unanimous choice for Kenly’s next ‘town manager.’
While the council claimed they were “proud” of the hire, police officers and other city officials have expressed their disapproval in a mass resignation.
“I have enjoyed my time working at the Kenly Police Department and had fully intended to remain employed with the town, but unfortunately, decisions are being made which make me question what the future will hold for all town employees,” Darren Pate, a patrol officer, wrote to Police Chief Josh Gibson.
Gibson also submitted his resignation and all four of the city’s full-time officers.
Two town clerks also resigned. In their resignation letters, the officers and the clerks cited a “hostile work environment.”
The wording appears to be a reference to Jones, who sued her previous employer, Richland County, S.C., for gender and racial discrimination after they fired her as manager of research.
Jones’ lawsuit alleges “hostile” treatment by Richland County officers and her supervisor and retaliation for reporting harmful behavior.
In addition, Jones claimed that Richland County failed to pay her fairly.
She said officials treated her differently due to illness and terminated her on March 30, 2015.
With a population of approximately 2,400 residents, demographics show Kenly evenly split along racial lines with 36% African Americans, 36% White, and 20% Hispanic.
Town council members plan to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the mass resignation and how to replace its police chief and the four full-time officers.
“I am honored that the Council has entrusted me with the responsibility of being Kenly’s next manager,” Jones said following her hiring in May.
Jones has worked in local government for more than 15 years.
She holds a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in Minnesota, a master’s degree in Public Policy from the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota, and a second master’s degree in Public Administration from Baruch College in New York.
“Kenly’s diversity and dynamic potential offer intriguing challenges and a promising future of growth and prosperity that I am excited to become a part of,” Jones said.
“I welcome the challenge of overseeing the town’s operations, and I look forward to working with the mayor, Town Council, and the talented and committed staff of Kenly. In this short time, I have learned I will be joining a dedicated team that possesses an extensive understanding of Kenly’s services. Together we will continue providing excellent services to our community.”