Kenly, NC – The entire full-time staff of the Kenly Police Department resigned on Wednesday due to
the “hostile work environment” created by the town’s new manager, according to the police chief.
Kenly Assistant Town Manager Sharon Evans and Utilities Clerk Christy Jones also tendered their resignations, WAVY reported.
KPD Chief Josh Gibson has been at the helm of the department for a majority of the 21 years he has served there and was the “longest running Chief in Johnston County,” according to his letter of resignation.
“I have put in my 2 weeks notice along with the whole police dept., Sharon Evans and Christy Thomas with the town of kenly after 21 years of service,” Chief Gibson wrote in a Facebook post on July 20. “The new manager has created an environment I do not feel we can perform our duties and services to the community.”
“I do not know what is next for me. I am letting the lord lead the way,” the longtime police chief wrote. “I have loved this community… it has become family and one of my greatest honors to serve.. God bless you all in Kenly…”
Chief Gibson did not elaborate on the type of environment Kenly’s new town manager, Justine Jones, has created since she took office in early June, WAVY reported.
“All of us are very heartbroken that it had to come to this,” the chief said.
In a resignation letter addressed to Jones, Chief Gibson said he has seen many “ups and downs” during his decades of service with the department.
“But, especially in the last 3 years, we have made substantial progress that we had hoped to continue,” he wrote. “However, due to the hostile work environment now present in the Town of Kenly, I do not believe progress is possible.”
Chief Gibson said he is thankful to the community and that he “will truly miss them.”
He also told WRAL he would consider returning to his position if Jones was no longer working there.
The KPD normally has eight officers, but was down to just five when Chief Gibson and his full-time employees gave their notices, WRAL reported.
The mass resignation left the KPD with just three part-time officers.
Those who opted to turn in the badges made it very clear that their decision to leave the department had nothing to do with pay, according to WRAL.
“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,” KPD Officer Darren Pate wrote to Chief Gibson in his letter of resignation.
“I will always be grateful for the experience I have gained while being employed with this department,” Officer Pate added. “Thank you for the opportunity to work with a great group of individuals, and for making me feel like family since Day 1.”
KPD Officer G.W. Strong, an 18-year veteran of the KPD, said he “fully expected” to finish his law enforcement career in the Town of Kenly.
“Unfortunately there are decisions being made that jeopardize my safety and make me question what the future will hold for a Kenly Police Officer,” Officer Strong’s resignation letter read.
KPD Lieutenant Jason Tedder said he has “set and accomplished many goals” during his years of service with the KPD and that he was “looking forward to a fruitful year.”
“However, due to the hostile work environment now present in the Town of Kenly, I believe progress is highly unlikely,” he wrote in his letter of resignation.
KPD Officer Austin Hillis also referenced the “hostile work environment” as being the reason behind his decision “to move on.”
“I will really miss this community,” Officer Hillis noted.
Thomas told Jones and the Kenly City Council in a letter that she has enjoyed her four-year term of employment with the city, but that the work area had become “very hostile.”
“Due to the current situations and the stress, in the work area lately, my main concern is my health, and right now I need to focus on my wellbeing,” Thomas said. “The work area is very hostile and I will not let myself be around that kind of atmosphere.”
Evans’ brief resignation letter referenced similar concerns.
“I will be retiring sooner that I planned,” she wrote. “I can no longer work under the stress.”
Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said his department will help cover the town of Kenly while the city figures out what to do about its lack of a police force, WRAL reported.
The town plans to hold an emergency meeting in the near future to discuss the mass resignation.
“We just learned about this yesterday, it effects the entire police dept and staff members, we are looking at having an emergency special meeting to figure out how to move forward with it,” Kenly Town Attorney Chip Hewett told WRAL.
Jones refused to comment other than to say she was “not at liberty to talk because of a personnel matter,” according to the news outlet.