Longtime manager out at SC library that hosted Drag Queen Story Hour

The manager of the South Carolina library that held Drag Queen Story Hour in February is no longer employed at the branch, according to officials.

Jonathan Newton, a longtime employee of the Greenville County Library System, posted on Facebook that he left his job as branch manager of the Five Forks library. That is where the controversial event that faced protests was held Feb. 17, The State reported.

Newton did not indicate if he resigned or was fired, but his departure was confirmed by Beverly James, the library system’s executive director, the Greenville News reported. Beyond the confirmation, all James said to the newspaper is “we don’t discuss personnel matters.”

In a comment on Newton’s post, his wife Natalie Whitted Newton wrote her husband had been employed by the library system for 17 years and put in extra hours off the clock.

“Fighting for what he knew was right, and doing his best to promote with all his heart the greater ideals he believes in as a librarian, manager/mentor, and dedicated advocate for all libraries,” Natalie Whitted Newton said in her comment.

There is no word if Newton’s departure was the result of the Drag Queen Story Hour.

Newton said “he has been advised not to make a statement about what led to the change in his employment status at this time,” according to WHNS.

He is not the only branch manager to leave the Greenville County system in the wake of the drag queen event.

The manager of the Pelham Road branch, Julie Phillips, said as of March 18 she is a former employee of the Greenville County system, the Greenville News reported. Phillips’ status was also confirmed by James, according to the newspaper.

Another branch manager in Simpsonville, Lina Bertinelli, posted about her resignation on Facebook. She won’t step down until April, but Bertinelli said recent events have spurred on her decision to leave.

“Over the past few months, it has become increasingly obvious that GCLS is not the right fit for me and I decided it was time to move on,” Bertinelli posted. “I am devastated by what has happened to my colleagues this week (they are a large part of why I have been here as long as I have) and I am honored to be in their company, but my resignation was put into motion before their news broke.”

Messages left with Bertinelli about what happened this week were not immediately answered.

The Drag Queen Story Hour was held by Mom’s Liberal Happy Hour SC, which said on Facebook that the event was designed to expose children “to all the different kinds of beautiful people in the world,” in an effort to allow them to “become more kind, confident, and tolerant individuals,” the group wrote on Facebook.

There was a protest, but the event went off as planned, with the aid of the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, which provided security at the Five Forks library, according to WHNS.

Prior to the event, the library issued a statement saying the Drag Queen Story Hour is “in accordance with the library’s policy on use of meeting spaces but is not being sponsored or promoted by the library system,” The State reported.

In the face of criticism on social media, the event was briefly canceled because the group was making tickets available online, which made it a private event and a violation of library system policy, The State reported. Once the library approved a new event application, the Drag Queen Story hour was back on schedule.

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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.