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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE CLOSURE: UPDATES, RESOURCES, AND CONTEXT

Holly Ridge town employee, who advocated for Holly Plaza tenants, fired for 'unapproved' media interview

Four white women of varying ages stand together, chatting amiably, in a large linoleum-floored multipurpose room.
Nikolai Mather
/
WHQR
Kimberly Frankenfield, far right, speaks with three Holly Plaza residents during a candidate forum in October 2023. Frankenfield was fired on Friday following an unauthorized interview with WECT.

Kimberly Frankenfield, a Holly Ridge employee who advocated for those impacted by the Holly Plaza mold crisis lost her job on Friday. According to a termination letter, she violated a gag order on town staff issued due to ongoing litigation.

The town of Holly Ridge confirmed on Monday that grant writer Kimberly Frankenfield is no longer an employee.

Holly Ridge hired Frankenfield in August 2023. She has long been an outspoken advocate for residents of the public housing complex Holly Plaza, who lost their homes following widespread mold contamination in late 2023. Frankenfield was one of the first town representatives to speak with the residents about their experiences. She has since acted as a go-between for impacted Holly Plaza residents and town authorities.

Town manager Heather Reynolds stated via email that Frankenfield's employment ended on Friday, February 9th. A letter obtained by WHQR stated that Frankenfield was dismissed because she gave an unauthorized interview about Holly Plaza to WECT.

The letter, addressed to Frankenfield from her supervisor Chuck Strickland, indicates that the town government had forbidden all unauthorized communication about Holly Plaza with the press. Strickland alleged that Frankenfield had given two unauthorized interviews on company time, including one to WECT. Later, according to the letter, Frankenfield told town manager Heather Reynolds about the interviews.

According to the letter, WECT told the town that Frankenfield was aware that giving an interview was risky, noting she had said "she was probably going to get fired for this."

According to Strickland's letter, the town requested transcripts of her interview with WECT. WECT did not provide the transcripts, but allegedly told town officials that she made many positive and negative comments.

WECT producer Kayloni Pachilis confirmed that a reporter had interviewed Frankenfield on Jan. 30. But Pachilis said the station had no plans to air the interview as of Monday evening.

This isn't the first time that Frankenfield has publicly butted heads with Holly Ridge government. Back in October, Frankenfield spoke out of turn during a town council meeting and urged representatives to address the mold crisis. She was frustrated, she said, by the town's reluctance to act quickly.

"I was told that I was too emotional, that I needed to calm down. These people and these families, these are the people I've been out talking to everyday for a month," she said at the time. "I understand I might lose my job over this and I'm alright with that. Because I'm going to do the right thing."

In Holly Ridge, employees have a right to appeal the decision after getting fired. It's unclear whether Frankenfield, who was not available for comment, will appeal the decision.

Reynolds stated that the town would make quote "no comments regarding Ms. Frankenfield's employment."

Read the letter in its entirety below:

Nikolai Mather is a Report for America corps member from Pittsboro, North Carolina. He covers rural communities in Pender County, Brunswick County and Columbus County. He graduated from UNC Charlotte with degrees in genocide studies and political science. Prior to his work with WHQR, he covered religion in Athens, Georgia and local politics in Charlotte, North Carolina. In his spare time, he likes working on cars and playing the harmonica. You can reach him at nmather@whqr.org.