In a stunning move that took the Town of Summerfield by complete surprise, the entire town staff, in a show of support for Summerfield Town Manager Scott Whittaker – who’s about to become the former town manager – has resigned.

Objecting to the way Whittaker has been handled by a majority of the Summerfield Town Council, on Sunday, May 19, the complete group of full-time town leaders made their announcement together on the Summerfield Strong Facebook page.

That Facebook site has been supportive of Whittaker and town staff over the years.

The statement that was signed,  “Sincerely, The Summerfield Town Staff,” makes it clear that the small town of 11,000 people to the north of Greensboro is about to face a giant hole where the town’s administrative staff once was.  In addition to the departure of Whittaker – who’s leaving against his will since the Town Council refused to renew his contract this year – are the departure of the town’s finance officer, town clerk, town planner, the parks and recreation director and others.

The town does have some part-time and seasonal employees who haven’t stated their intent to quit.

On Sunday, May 19, the town sent out notice of an Emergency Town Council meeting for Monday, May 24  at 3 p.m. in the Summerfield Community Center at 5404 Centerfield Road. Normally, public bodies in North Carolina must give at least 48 hour’s notice prior to a meeting, however, in the case of emergency meetings, sudden notice is legally permissible.

The meeting is being called for the purpose of handling “a staffing/employee matter” and the council is expected to immediately go into closed session at the start under NCGS 143-318.11(a)(3) and NCGS 143-318.11(a)(5). (Those two statutes allow the council to consult with its attorney and also discuss employee compensation and town contracts.)

The public notice states explicitly that the meeting isn’t related to an ongoing de-annexation threat that’s coming from developer David Couch.

The Facebook post from the town leaders states, “It is with sad and heavy hearts that the staff of the Town of Summerfield announces their collective resignations. We are incredibly honored to have served the citizens of Summerfield for many years, and we had hoped to retire here.”

It then goes on to say: “However, the majority Council’s treatment of Town Manager Scott Whitaker in not renewing his contract, and their subsequent overstep of staff duties, has made it impossible for us to stay.”

The announcement from staff stated that, if the Town Council had been fairer with Whitaker and let him go with the dignity he deserved after serving as town manager for a dozen years, and if the council had given him proper severance and allowed his wife, who has cancer, to continue on the town’s insurance, then the staff would have been sad to see Whittaker go – but they would have remained in their jobs.

However, the statement maintains that that’s not what happened.

“We would like to thank Scott for being our fierce defender, the head of our work family, the constant smile, the epitome of professionalism and kindness, our mentor and example of what we should all wish to be, and for always keeping the storm on the outside until now. Working for him and with him has been the greatest privilege of our professional careers.”

The statement also notes that the top town staff do believe Summerfield Mayor Tim Sessoms and Town Councilmember John Doggett did treat Whittaker with respect, however, the majority of the town council did not, they contend.

Town staff also thanked past town councils for their “unwavering support of the staff” and stated that the leadership of former town councils prior to the current one had been invaluable to the progress of the town.