Hamlet fires tax collector

By: By Christine S. Carroll - Staff Writer

HAMLET — The City of Hamlet is on the hunt for a tax collector, after dismissing Jennifer Turner for what personnel documents call “a pattern of insubordination when confronted with disciplinary actions.”

City Manager Jonathan Blanton released the documents Tuesday, in answer to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Richmond County Daily Journal. The three single-spaced pages report that Turner was rebuked twice for unprofessional behavior, in late February and in July of last year, before Blanton fired her Feb. 28.

A document signed on that date by Turner’s supervisor, city Finance Officer Jill Dickens — and with a notation of acceptance but disagreement by Turner — details the reasons for the firing as separate incidents in which Turner was “cursing at one’s supervisor (Dickens), speaking in a confrontational tone while making hand gestures (at Blanton), (and) slamming and slinging a paper at the City Manager (Blanton).”

Two days after the firing, City Council discussed the matter before its scheduled budget workshop, Blanton said Tuesday. Council member Wendy Massagee — who had requested it — left immediately after the closed session, labeling its tone hostile.

One of the two incidents in which Turner behaved unprofessionally occurred five days before her dismissal and involved Massagee, the documents released Tuesday show.

On Feb. 23, Blanton called Turner to meet him in the City Hall conference room before her workday began. When Turner arrived, Blanton asked her why she had set up a meeting to share information on city business with Massagee without telling her supervisor about it, behavior Blanton had told Turner before was inappropriate “in regards to chain of command.”

Because the issue had been discussed with Turner “multiple times” before, the document says, Turner was “reprimanded with three days at home,” to begin immediately. After signing a formal reprimand, Turner allegedly threw the pen and paper “toward” Blanton.

In an earlier incident — on July 6, 2017 — Dickens asked Turner for the second time in six months why she completed fewer customer transactions than others in the collections office, documents show. Turner allegedly told Dickens, “Let me tell you something” and called Dickens’s measurement of her performance “p—- poor” and “bull—-t.”

Turner later allegedly admitted in two rebuttals totaling 19 pages that her behavior had been “unprofessional” and something she was not proud of.

The city began advertising the open position for tax collector on its Facebook page Friday afternoon, two days after Turner’s firing and the afternoon after its closed-door discussion. It also has posted a notice seeking a “courteous and professional” employee on the jobs board of the N.C. League of Municipalities and purchased a classified advertisement with the Daily Journal.

Neither Turner nor Massagee could not be reached by telephone Tuesday. A Facebook message to Turner went unanswered, but a post dated Sunday said: “Everything will work out in the end. You don’t need to know how. You just need to TRUST GOD and believe it will.”

Blanton said Tuesday that he had consulted with the city’s attorney and did not wish to comment in detail.

“It’s best not to comment any further than the public record,” he said.

N.C. law dictates that most public agencies disclose each employee’s promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation or other change in position, according to Frayda Bluestein, who writes about open-records laws on the website “Coates’ Canons,” a publication of the University of North Carolina School of Government.

Bluestein writes that another section of the open-records law dictates that actions taken “for disciplinary reasons” also must be made public and that “final action to appoint or discharge an employee must be made in open session,” but not necessarily immediately after the discussion of the matter in closed session.

By Christine S. Carroll

Staff Writer

Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]

Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]