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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Fired Southport employees dismissed for dishonesty, detrimental conduct

The letter of termination to two Southport employees was sent earlier this week, stating their conduct was “detrimental to city service,

SOUTHPORT — More details have been revealed on the two city employees fired in small beach town in Brunswick County this week.

On Tuesday, the City of Southport announced it terminated the employment of two of three people who were suspended without pay in November. Director of Community Relations Randy Jones and Community Building Administrator Sydney Heil no longer work for the town, while Kate Marshall of animal protective services started earlier in the week on Dec. 12.

“Ms. Marshall did not violate any of the personnel policies,” according to Bonnie Therrien, city manager.

The termination letters, signed by both Heil and Jones, state they were let go do to conduct that was “detrimental to city service.”

For Jones it included improper use of a city computer and dishonesty, misuse, negligent and improper use of city equipment, while Heil was only cited for the latter.

Thierren said no criminal charges have been filed and police are not investigating. The terminated employees are receiving their last day of pay on Friday, Dec. 15.

Jones’ salary was $84,627, and Heil, an hourly employee, made roughly $48,152 annually. Marshall’s salary is $61,188.

Jones and Heil have the right to appeal the decision and request a “Name Clearing Hearing” within 10 days of the decision — which is Dec. 11.

“The Name Clearing Hearing is not a substitute of for, or a second opportunity for contesting the decision,” the termination letter indicates.

Thierren said an appeal hadn’t been made for either.

The city still did not explain how employees misused the Ring doorbells or why and how. Thierren told PCD Friday she would “not be going into further details regarding the investigation.”

The investigation was conducted by attorney Ann Smith of Jackson Lewis, P.C., a law firm specializing in employment law, according to the city. It included numerous interviews by Therrien and Smith with relevant city staff and the three employees.

On Dec. 12, the city sent out a press release indicating the employees were fired. It mentioned the doorbells.

“Ring doorbells were installed at the Community Building in July of 2023 and were added for extra security and to communicate with guests and visitors at the front and back door. The Ring doorbell was purchased in October of 2023 for Indian Trail Meeting Hall for the same reason. The purchase of the Community Building system was reported in the Community Building report which appeared in the July 2023 Monthly Report to the Board and the public.”

According to the State Port Pilot, sources told the outlet there was both audio and video obtained from the doorbell footage that sparked the investigation. Port City Daily asked the city if the installation was requested by any of the aldermen, to which Thierren answered no.

“They were installed for security reasons,” she said.

The City of Southport has a new mayor in Rich Alt, who was elected by two votes, after undergoing a recount at the request of former Mayor Joe Pat Hatem. Hatem told PCD last month the suspensions of the employees had “nothing to do with the performance of their jobs.” He added he recommended the three be placed on probation and maintain their employment.

In a Facebook post, Alt said the city manager told him some personal information was collected on him, but he didn’t know further details on why or who was involved. He reported elected officials were told to stay out of the investigation.


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