CCSD investigator’s resignation follows supervisor’s termination
by Megan Thornton
May 15, 2013 12:31 AM | 12546 views | 46 46 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mary Finlayson
Mary Finlayson
slideshow

After Cobb County School District lead investigator Mary Finlayson confirmed her termination, one of only two other employees in her department said Tuesday he’s also planning to jump ship.

Jay Morrissey, an investigations manager with the school system, confirmed Tuesday he was resigning from his position effective May 31. He said his resignation was for “personal reasons” and wouldn’t comment further on the decision.

Finlayson, former Cobb Schools director of professional standards and ethics, sent an expanded version of her letter (which ran Tuedsay in the Journal’s editorial page) to all school board members Sunday night, detailing her firing and what she alleges was treatment more befitting of a common criminal than a seven-year employee in good standing.

According to the school district’s response to an Open Records Request by the Journal, there was no paper trail leading to a disciplinary file, and Finlayson did not have a letter of termination or a resignation letter.

Jay Dillon, director of communications for the school district, said it is district policy not to comment on personnel matters.

Finlayson said Tuesday she was told last Thursday that she was fired simply because of budget cuts and reductions in central office staff. The school board is scheduled to vote Thursday to cut 16 central office positions to save $1.1 million.

Finlayson said she’s exploring her options to obtain legal counsel as the district does not have a policy in place allowing non-certified employees to appeal termination.

On the CCSD website, Finlayson’s name and contact information have been removed and replaced with contact information of secretary Christy Black.

Finlayson and her team have been widely criticized after leading investigations into several high-profile cases accusing Cobb administrators of allegedly failing to report instances of alleged sexual assault. Several cases resulted in termination or suspension.

Critics argued that the district took a heavy-handed approach to the state’s mandatory reporting law, taking the stance that Cobb teachers and principals were “guilty until proven innocent.”

One recent case was that of Tapp Middle School Principal Jerry Dority, who was charged criminally for failure to report in 2012.

Finlayson said she recommended Dority not be terminated.

Just three months after those charges, Kell High School Principal Trudie Donovan resigned after similar allegations were made. Criminal charges against Donovan were dismissed by the Cobb Solicitor General’s Office last month citing lack of evidence.

“When the issue arose with Donovan, the attorney advised (human resources chief Michael Shanahan) that there was no other option but to terminate Donovan since they terminated Dority who had also been arrested and that not firing Trudie would lead to a discrimination charge against the district by Dority,” she said.

Finlayson also disputed claims that employees were forced to defend their innocence, noting that upon taking her role as director, her department implemented an electronic case management system to track investigations and required all investigations to be digitally recorded to ensure professional conduct and accountability.

“It is not true that staff are assumed guilty until proven innocent and a review of any investigative file and the audio tapes would prove that,” she said.

Though questions about the way her department handled cases swirled following the recent dismissals, Finlayson said the facts support each of the findings made by her department.

Finlayson said her office worked with law enforcement to look into state mandated reporting cases and she presented findings of fact to Shanahan, who brought forward the information to several district officials, including the superintendent and board attorney, who then brought each recommendation to the board for approval.

“I did the job that was asked of me, providing thorough investigations and detailed facts to the decision makers,” she said.

Treated as a criminal?

In Finlayson’s email to the school board, she said she was only given 30 minutes to leave her office after being notified of her termination Thursday and hoped her story would help remaining employees that will potentially be laid off in the face of this year’s budget crunch.

“I hope that they will not be treated in the same undignified way,” she said. “I believe it is important for you to know the manner in which this was handled.”

She said she was told to meet with Shanahan on Thursday at 2 p.m. and not given a reason. She cited district policy as requiring advance notice be given to an employee of his or her termination.

“I was not afforded the same rights I was required to give all (my former) employees,” Finlayson said.

Finlayson said Shanahan “read a script” telling her her position was cut due to the budget and told her to be out of the building within the next 30 minutes. She said the official reason given for her firing — budget cuts — doesn’t hold water, as her job was budgeted alongside the rest of the district employees for the fiscal year through June 30.

“They cleared out all staff from our office suite,” she said. “I was not allowed to say goodbye to anyone. I was treated as if I had committed a crime or was a danger to others.”

Finlayson also cited policy stating the district requires “progressive discipline” prior to terminating an employee for performance concerns. If that was the case, she hadn’t received any, she said.

“I have never been told by anyone in administration of any concerns with my job performance or with the way investigations were conducted, and my performance evaluations have been excellent,” she said.

Finlayson said she wrote Shanahan a note expressing her concern about two recent cases that were connected. She said she considered the handling of the cases inconsistent and a potential liability.

Shanahan didn’t respond to the note, she said. That was the week before she was fired.

Board members respond

Regarding the district’s policy on the handling of accused educators, Board Chair Randy Scamihorn said the district is still in the process of reviewing its policies.

“Things are still changing and things are still being reviewed and there’s no conclusive results yet,” Scamihorn said.

Board member Brad Wheeler said he didn’t know about how Finlayson’s termination was handled, but felt that all district employees should be held to the same standard and treated with respect.

“I think there’s been a lot of concerns lately with HR,” Wheeler said. “Every one of them needs to be thoroughly looked at and dealt with in a fair and impartial manner. We need to treat people the right way and do the right thing. … I’m concerned as a board member that we’re doing the appropriate things, but I’m not part of these investigations, that was done by senior staff. I hope they are doing jobs as they should because it’s important that they do.”

 

Comments
(46)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Lafayebush
|
May 30, 2013
Go Home.

Former CCSD Employee
|
May 29, 2013
Dear MDJ,

While I am not happy to hear of anyone losing their job, I must say that "What Goes Around, Comes Around!" Mary Finlayson, Jay Morrisey are living proof that you MUST be very careful about how you treat people. I am just waiting to see when payback will finally come and get Denise Magee of CHS and Darsha Brooks of CMS. These inidviduals are liars and their day is coming. What goes up, must come down -- its the universal law of life.... I am glad to see that CCSD is finally getting around to cleaning house of all of those who seek and sought to destroy the careers of others. In summary, Good job board of education!
Blue Ivey
|
May 21, 2013
So, what goes around comes around is true! Mary Findlayson got her just desserts! I know firsthand because I am a former CCSD teacher that she emotionally attacked during an investigation blown totally out of proportion. She dug into my file and pulled out anything to give her case teeth with the State...things that I was NEVER disciplined for at my local schools. A case based on notes in a file, simple documentation of things I was exonerated of...slanted he said-she said stuff! God told me she would get her payback for how she dealt with me and other educators unfairly, but I didn't know that I would actually be alive to witness it. Poetic justice. How does it feel, Mary? Even if you fight to get your job back, just knowing you got a little while to walk in your victims' shoes satisfies me. But, then again, people like you always feel you're right and justified. You attacked and harassed people in the name of "doing your job," when all you were doing was trying to make a name for yourself. I want to teach again, but probably won't be able to because of you!!! What happened in my case did NOT have to go to the State! It wasn't that serious! If I was so horrible, why did CCSD get mad when I resigned under contract?? They should have been saying "Good riddance" if I was a menace to the district. Bye, bye, Mary F.!
TooLate4Her
|
May 20, 2013
Even if there is merit to Ms. Finlayson's claims, Georgia is a "Right to Work" state. You can be dismissed from any job for NO reason. There is some serious housekeeping to do in our school administration. Maybe the horn will be sounded on others that will save taxpayers more salaries.
anonymous
|
May 19, 2013
Just goes to show you that it doesn't matter who you are, if they want you gone for any reason, they find a way. Do you job as instructed but tick someone off and you can be gone without question.
Long Time Observer
|
May 18, 2013
Mrs. Finlayson’s termination is years past due.

However, there should be no misunderstanding. She did not remain in her position with the CCSD for seven years under three different CCSD superintendents without doing the bidding of her superiors.

This should be an alert to all CCSD administrators, managers, and department heads, no matter who you are and how much you think that they like you. They will manipulate you and allow you to do their immoral and sometimes illegal deeds. Then, when you become a public relations or legal liability, they will throw you under the bus.

The tide is changing. Even if ever so slowly. If you are one of their lackeys get out while you can. Your reputation has already been ruined in Cobb County. If you stay they will ruin you forever. Please learn from your experience and move on or retire before it is too late for you. It is already too late for many of your comrades and those that failed to stand up for.

FormerCCSDteacher
|
May 18, 2013
I hope CCSD follows the same procedures with her that they did with me - "ask me" to resign - promise if I do - no harm , no foul - we all walk away. The moment I resign - I get a letter from CCSD that the personnel matter is resolved....and , oh by the way -- they're turning it over to the PSC for further review !! (thank God nothing came of it from the PSC) --

I just hope that CCSD does the same thing with these horrible people (Jay Morrissey and Mary Finlayson ) - if they have a teaching license - PSC should review their certification for ethics violations --

just sayin' :)
big yellow cheese!
|
May 17, 2013
thank u so much marietta daily journal! please keep the heat on, list all law suite.s that mary

and the cobb school system is facing! the tax payer's need to know what there facing? and miss mary if u would have read the cobb co, grand jury;s report on the bus barn 3 years ago, u know better to trust mike warner and rick grisham . please cobb board members. you dusted the rug! now clean house at the bus barn...
Challenge To The BOE
|
May 17, 2013
Okay, Cobb BOE! What are you going to do? I think the Marietta Daily Journal should be instrumental in getting the Board to revisit ALL of the cases that Ms. Finlayson and her lynch mob were associated with. There needs to be some retribution for these employees, and if anybody can call attention to the Board, its the Marietta Daily Journal!!!!!
so good !!!
|
May 16, 2013
please give me a brake. mary what did u do a few months back when that school bus mechanice turned

in his 2 week notice of leaving. your mary trusted mike warner and rick grisham so much . u call him and give ham 30 min to leave. told him get out or the police will come and put him out.

and you know it. we have the email! what goes around comes around! p/s when looking for work

remember the bus drivers and bus mechanice's feels

soo good!!
All's Fair
|
May 16, 2013
They say that what comes around goes around - albeit, it may have taken awhile but Mary your time has come at last! Farewell to The Bully of Glover Street. Kudos to those responsible for finally giving Mary her just reward.
Bout Time
|
May 16, 2013
I hope the BOE takes the initiative to review past cases that were mishandled by this so called. "investigator" and make things right for those that were harmed. She would have fit right in during the inquisition.
Dr. Teresa Plenge
|
May 16, 2013
Somehow these Nazi tactics were not used by John Adams and he was very effective in his job. To my knowledge John never lied to the board while I was a Board Member. Mary, I have caught you in lies to the board and alerted the MDJ when you did. You could not distinguish between a minor policy infraction and a criminal investigation and treated them all the same. GO BACK TO THE POLICE DEPARTMENT WHERE THEY SUPPOSEDLY LOVE YOU.
I concur
|
May 17, 2013
Thank you Dr. Plenge! John Adams truly represented the department in good, fair and equitable order. His biggest mistake was hiring Mary Finlayson. It is unbelievable to me how a person can be as evil and vindictive as she is. Even before I became one of her victims, I saw how she dealt with people. Maybe her victims should contact John Adams new company and get some direction on a class action suit? What say ye Mr. Adams?
Blue Ivey
|
May 21, 2013
They didn't love her there. I heard her say that she was accused by people at the police department of being too rough and having a bad attitude!

Karma Darma
|
May 16, 2013
Could not have happened to a more appropriate person and her lackey, Jay Morrissey!
Middle School X
|
May 16, 2013
I too was part of this lynch mob Nazi tactics that have and still go on at Glover street. These people at CCSD understand little other then bully tactics and slander. Their way or the highway has been their motto for far to long. I would like to see outside investigations annually spot check case files of terminated on non- renewed contract employees to see how many are targets and how many really need to go. This system has as many problems as APS cheating scandal, problem is it is careers and jobs with lives attached that are being erased !
Anon parent
|
May 15, 2013
Now they need to look at some of the principals who have destroyed the morale of schools since they have been there (too long) with nepotism,rewarding tattling or reporting, rumors, distrust as well as railroading some very decent people. Look at some of your East Cobb schools where 50-60% percent of the staff has left, including secretaries, nurses, teachers, administrators....When you see this big of a turn over in a school, something is VERY wrong.
Show Me The Way!
|
May 24, 2013
Checkout Timber Ridge Elementary...that heartless principal has done the same to many, many employees there. Of course she had a good teacher, Mary was her boss!!! I'm still there and it won't be long before everyone takes early retirement before she shows you the door!!!
Dr. Teresa Plenge
|
May 15, 2013
Mary,Mary quite contrary . . . The progressive discipline policy does NOT require previous discipline for a reduction in force. Also, it provides for instant firing under certain circumstances. But you KNOW this Mary. You tried to have this policy changed. You were hired by Dunnigan but have been caught by the new HR Boss. Good for him.
K.Arma
|
May 15, 2013
Good riddance to that shrimp Jay Morrissey also. All too often administration forgot where they came from and lose compassion for thos on the front line fighting the fight every day
She know who I am
|
May 15, 2013
Mary said, "I have never been told by anyone in administration of any concerns with my job performance or with the way investigations were conducted, and my performance evaluations have been excellent,” Really!! Wow. How does it feel Mary? I am remember when I made a similiar statement to Mary. This BULLY can no longer use her power to intimidate teachers, especially those who work directly with her children.
eastcobber222
|
May 15, 2013
Again I say why do the kids not get consequences.For they must be the root of all of this.Why are they allowed to stay in school? This is getting out of hand and a joke.Ridiculous and insane at this point.How many others have false charges on them? Or been the result of a unfair firing?
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides