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Felon acted as city clerk

Peabody replaces 2 but 1 more angrily resigns

Staff writer

Peabody’s interim city clerk, who handles payments at city hall until his replacement hired Monday takes over, has three felony convictions and still owes $195,712.50.

Court records show that Jonathan Clayton-King, husband of council member Christopher King, pleaded guilty Dec. 13, 2016, in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, to forgery, theft, and conspiracy to commit theft.

He was sentenced March 13, 2018, to five years’ probation and placed under house arrest, permitted to go to work and religious services and to perform community service work.

He was ordered to pay $210,000 restitution at a rate of $600 a month. Since then, court records indicate, he has made 48 payments ranging from $5 to $1,000, the most recent monthly payment being made Dec. 17, more than six months ago.

Clayton-King was Peabody’s animal control and health and safety officer until June 3, when council members fired city clerk Jylle Wilson and appointed him interim city clerk.

According to former Police Chief Travis Wilson, Clayton-King admitted having prior felony convictions before Wilson hired him as animal control and health and safety officer. But because the duties he hired Clayton-King to do didn’t involve handling money, Wilson hired him anyway.

Wilson resigned May 28 after a contentious executive session during which he got into a yelling match with Clayton-King’s husband, who was appointed to fill a council vacancy after Clayton-King was hired.

After a wave of resignations and firings, Peabody was left without a public works director, a police chief, a city clerk, a municipal court clerk and police secretary, a city treasurer, and a police officer.

This left the city with just two key employees, Clayton-King and officer Medina Sulejmani, who said Monday that she might soon resign to join the Park City police department.

The city still had two public works employees, but lost one of them Monday.

At Monday’s sometimes-contentious meeting, watched by 19 observers in the room and 22 observers online, two employees were hired to fill what had been three open positions.

After a closed-door session announced to be for 20 minutes but extended to an hour, during which candidates were called into the meeting but not announced publicly, Rayna Crawford was hired at $20 an hour to be municipal court clerk and treasurer.

Lawanna Belgard was hired to be city clerk at $18 an hour.

The decision to pay Belgard $18 an hour created sparks soon afterward when council members voted to give public works employee Justin Decker a $500 bonus for extra work he had put in since the resignation of former public works director Zac Thackston.

Decker stepped out of the meeting after council members voted on his bonus.

Soon afterward, he stomped back inside, slammed his cell phone on the table in front of Clayton-King, and angrily announced he quit.

“I’ll be turning in my two weeks’ soon,” Decker said. “Five hundred dollars — that’s an insult! You’re paying me less than someone to take checks!”

When Clayton-King and King moved to Peabody and opened a retail store, Clayton-King worked for Kansas Department of Commerce.

The Department of Commerce hired him Feb. 23, 2020, as an economic development representative, then promoted to a director Aug. 22, 2021. His last day with the department was Nov. 20, 2023.

“We were not aware of any of his convictions,” department spokesman Patrick Lowry said.

When Clayton-King was promoted, the department issued a press release stating that he earlier had worked for several non-profit organizations in Philadelphia and New York and that he had owned and operated an independent contractor agency that provided operation management and human resource services.

He now runs an economic development consulting firm called Clutch Professionals, which offers “customized, unique strategies.”

The Clutch Professionals website lists grant writing, grant administration, and economic development as its services.

Peabody resident Mark Stockman is so concerned about the resignations and firings among city employees and that the city has no ambulance service that he and his wife plan to move to Moundridge.

His daughter and son-in-law, whose family has lived in Peabody for generations, already bought a house in Newton.

“We have a grocery store that’s not run right,” he said. “The mayor owns it. We’re losing ground. When you have two chiefs of police quit, there’s something wrong. We’re in our 60s and we don’t need stuff like that.”

Finding out there was no local ambulance service was the final straw, Stockman said.

“We’re very, very disappointed in our city government,” Stockman said. “This is a life-and-death situation.”

Peabody’s turmoil began after two downtown business people were appointed by the mayor, also a downtown business person, to fill council vacancies.

Residents have complained anonymously that the new three-person downtown majority on the council has been favoring downtown development over other areas of the city.

Last modified July 11, 2024

 

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