Top public safety officer turns in resignation letter
by Jon Gillooly
January 06, 2014 06:45 PM | 38532 views | 24 24 comments | 81 81 recommendations | email to a friend | print
download Cobb County Public Safety Director Jack Forsythe 's resignation letter
Jack Forsythe
Jack Forsythe
MARIETTA — Cobb County’s top public safety officer turned in a blistering letter of resignation Monday, saying he was blocked from making reforms to a police force that is in “crisis” from lack of resources.

Jack Forsythe, who served in executive roles with NASA and FEMA/Homeland Security, was selected as the county’s public safety director just one year ago.

Now that he’s resigned, County Chairman Tim Lee said Cobb Fire Chief Sam Heaton has been appointed interim public safety director. Lee said he plans to ask the Board of Commissioners to appoint Heaton to the position permanently at its Jan. 14 meeting. Heaton served as interim public safety director prior to the Board of Commissioners hiring Forsythe.

“It’s unfortunate,” Commissioner Bob Ott said of the resignation. “I’m sorry to see Jack go. I really enjoyed working with him over the last year. I think he’s a pure professional and I wish him well. It’s unfortunate that he’s leaving.”

In his Jan. 6 letter to county manager David Hankerson, Forsythe said public safety in Cobb County “has suffered from a lack of sufficient funding and resources to properly sustain the appropriate level of personnel, facilities and equipment needed to provide an adequate level of protection for the citizens of Cobb County.”

Forysthe said the lack of support for public safety has increased officer safety issues, reduced the number of officers available for calls, increased fire response times and brought about the “degradation of the morale” of all public safety personnel.

There was an immediate need, he said, for a major infusion of resources to enhance public safety, which has “now been exacerbated with the announcement of the Atlanta Braves coming to Cobb County.”

Forsythe blamed Hankerson for blocking efforts of reform, writing “… I have come to realize that no matter what information I have provided to you in the past or will provide to you in the future, history has proven that short of some catastrophic event, you as county manager will continue to deny or take no immediate action on behalf of the county to move forward with the recommended public safety enhancements provided by your public safety officials.”

Forsythe said he has notified Hankerson and Lee for more than a year of the “crisis” developing in the police department resulting from the number of officers leaving the department and the county’s inability to attract and retain new recruits.

Hankerson, he said, blocked him from completing a management study to validate his analysis.

“You have stated the county is not ready for what the report will say nor can the county afford the number of officers the report will say we need, therefore the study has not been given approval from your office to proceed even after I was directed by the chairman to complete the study,” Forsythe writes.

On four occasions, he said, Hankerson notified him that he has the authority to fire him “… and on Aug. 16, 2013, you went as far as to threaten me and stated in anger that you and I are not going to make it, that one of us will be departing soon.”

“You further stated that I don’t do things the Cobb Way. It appears the ‘Cobb Way’ is not to disagree or buck the current procedures, regardless of the validity or legality of the ‘Cobb Way’ process,” Forsythe said.

County spokesman Robert Quigley said Forsythe received a salary of $138,000. Forsythe says in his letter that his salary was $30,000 below the national average for public safety directors.

When hired last January, he made a commitment to work for one year, he said, a commitment that has ended.

Forsythe had high praise for the firefighters, police officers and other employees who make up the public safety department, and singling out Heaton, Police Chief John Houser and Emergency 911 Director Ann Flynn.

“I personally thank John, Sam and Ann for their support and friendship over the past year,” he wrote. “I will always cherish my time with these leaders and all of the members of public safety, and wish the best to them and Cobb County now and in the future.”

In his latest job evaluation, which allows for the categories of “does not meet requirements, needs improvement, meets requirements” and exceeds requirements,” Hankerson checked the box of “meets requirements” for Forsythe.

Hankerson also gave Forsythe a list of goals to achieve this year, beginning with “support the Board of Commissioners and County Manager in general, and as pertains to public safety.”

“We appreciate all of Jack’s efforts serving as public safety director for the last year and wish him well,” Lee said. “Jack decided it was not where he wanted to be long term so we went back to Sam and we think we’ve grown a great asset internally with Sam, and he did a good job as interim, so we’re going to move forward with Sam, and I fully support Sam’s recommendation to be the public safety director.”

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But Why?
February 25, 2014
Cobb County dodged a bullet! Someone should find out why Forsythe was FORCED to leave NASA. He was lucky to have received the $138K salary!
Hank hates the PD
February 01, 2014
Hankerson has no respect for anyone in Public Safety. It is again apparent from his policy instituted today concerning vacation days for county employees. Regular county employees get a day and a half of free vacation time to cover Wednesday and Thursday half day. Public safety was told they have to report to work and if they were unable to make it even after spending 6 or 7 hours stuck in traffic Tuesday, they are not getting paid. We work a nontraditional week and those with Wednesday and Thursday as regular off days are told that its just tough luck that everyone else received free vacation time of 12 hours. Why not be fair to all county employees Hank!!!!!
January 19, 2014
I have been there and seen the corruption. Want to level the playing field? Ask about special treatment/interest regarding past Cobb elected who own commercial vehicles. I promise if you dig, you will find preferential treatment in regards to tickets, revenue, and licensing. Oh, and make sure you investigate special jobs and gifts given to past Dept. of Public Safety Administrators. Just a nugget to get you started...
Tony Cain
January 16, 2014
Wonder how we ever survived all the "crisis situations" in Cobb before Forsythe.
Tony Cain
January 16, 2014
Sure are a lot of anonymous comments critical of Hankerson while praising Forsythe.

This was the same game played a year ago when Forsythe was hired.
A true county man
January 10, 2014
It is a SHAME that David Hankerson aka Willie Jones is worshiped the way he is! He is one of the most arrogant individuals I have ever met. He boasts about himself more than any man I have ever known. When he walks into a room or when he shows up at an event, all of the angels sing "How Great thou art!"

Oh how I wish one of our brave police officers would catch him leaving the "garden" one evening and expose to all of the Citizens of Cobb his real problem! He certainly thinks he is "above the law"! Hankerson sir, you are a JOKE, and some of those close to you know it. I just hope that with the loss of quality folks like Jack Forsyth, you are exposed for what you really are? An overpaid, arrogant waist of taxpayers money.
January 09, 2014
Forsythe was essentially pushed out for shedding a light on the issues Cobb County is currently experiencing. He was told to keep quiet about his findings when he discovered that Cobb doesn't even come close to comparing to other departments of similar size. When presenting his findings he was basically told to shut his mouth because Hankerson and Lee didn't want to "foot the bill" for raising benefits & salaries to get Cobb back to where it needs to be, and once was.

This department has basically turned into shit. It's become the department where everyone goes for training and once released from the academy, they are leaving for other departments with better salaries, better benefits, incentive pay, education reimbursement, and take home cars.

Forsythe couldn't have been more correct when he said there will be no changes under the watch of Hankerson & Lee short of a catastrophic event. These two sorry excuses for men have pushed out the one man who actually had a clue as to what he was doing and had plans to turn Cobb around.

As for the Braves coming to Cobb, they should seriously reconsider. Cobb Co. does not and will not have the officers to protect the amount of people that the Braves will bring.

Mr. Forsythe, thank you for standing up for these valuable men and women who risk their lives daily to protect and serve this community.
Joe Citizen
January 09, 2014
Good God!!! The political leaders of Cobb county can agree to pony up $400,000,000 to pay for a new Braves stadium, but they can't come up with the funds to protect the safety of it's citizens? What misplaced set of values. I'm glad that I don't live there.

Thank you!
January 08, 2014
I would like to say "thank you" to Director Forsythe for speaking the truth regarding the staffing issues at the police department, even to his detriment.

Best wishes to you in the future and thank you for your support over the last year.

Every resident in the county should take heed to what Director Forsythe stated in that letter. It is factual. Keep in mind, he could have easily shut his mouth, given in to the "Cobb Way", done little to nothing and collected about 140K per year. Instead, he stuck to his principals, spoke the truth and gave up his position and pay to do so.
January 08, 2014
I worked for Cobb PD for several years and left when I saw how bad things were going to be. When I started, my "young" shift had an average experience of around 8-9 years in law enforcement. Currently, the "young" shifts have an average experience of 3 years. What Willie Jones (Hankerson's born name) doesn't realize is that an officer may have knowledge, but not the wisdom, to effectively police until they've been working for several years. You have brand new recruits, fresh out of the training program, asking officers with 6 months of experience how to do their job when an incident arises that they may not have seen before. As more experienced officers go to specialized units or are promoted, the way of the veteran road officer is diminishing.

I left for a take home car, $200 a month less in health insurance (for the EXACT same insurance), and for a department that acts like they care (whether they do or not). You'll never get that at Cobb, but what you will get is the best rookie training in Georgia and the ability to go to be placed at the top of the list for any other department in the state. Many departments even place a fired Cobb officer higher than those who have not been in trouble at other departments.

Good luck my former co-workers, get out while you can.
January 07, 2014
The police officers in Cobb will make what ever the citizens of Cobb choose to pay them. That is a fact. The citizens decide the quality of officers in their community. If they choose slow response times due to lack of manpower over the service they've come to enjoy so be it. The elected officials believe policing is about bodies. They don't account for the months it takes for a new hire to get on the street and up to speed. The sad part is when the new officers hit their stride they move on to another department.

Ask the Chiefs of Dunwoody and Brookhaven how many of their new hires are from Cobb PD. Best trained officers in the state bar none.

I hope the Atlanta Braves organization is paying attention. You may want to think long and hard about moving here. Yes Atlanta can be a pain to work with and they will bleed you for every extra dime, but they can supply enough officers to protect your paying customers. As of today it will not happen in Cobb. Its not that the finest group of men and women in blue won't do their best, its physically impossible to stretch the 400 or so working officers that thin unless the Vinings, East Cobb, West Cobb bear the brunt of manpower shortages.

Cobb can't afford to neglect the South Cobb/Mableton areas and the North Cobb area has KPD, AcPD, and KSU to help out.

Those who enjoy the silver comet trail runs/bike rides may want to rethink their exercise options. The ranger unit is heading to Braves country. Thank God for GSP because the STEP/motors unit is heading to Braves country. Feel free to drink and drive because DUI task force is heading to Braves country. Feel like robbing hispanics and old ladies on Pat Mell, knock yourself out because Viper unit is heading to Braves country.

Many who read this will understand my point, some will scoff and declare me an angry civil employee much like those in Wisconsin. Far from it. I believe the current situation will get better without a "catastrophic" event because the people always get it right. Cobb PD is the finest in the state because the people of Cobb wanted it.

Civil employees understand that we will never be top end earners, we know what we signed up for. We don't expect the back breaking salaries of other large agencies. Most of us own homes in Cobb county and we know what an increase in property tax means. What we do know is Cobb fire and 911 have separate sources of funding (911 tax/fire tax). Ask yourself what 1-2 cents on alcohol, cigarettes, pudding....I don't know what, but at least you would have the choice to participate or not.

Most people reading this are far more intelligent than I, but someone must have the conviction to let the elected officials (and their appointees) know what kind of police force you want. There is no price for duty and professionalism, but there is one for the people who hold those virtues.
January 07, 2014
I wonder, was former Director Forsythe left out of the Strategic Facilities Plan 'closed meeting'?? I'll just bet he was!! He must have been, since, in his letter of resignation, he appeared not to know about the $$$$ already unfolding since this past summer for just those very things!!

Too bad he threw in the 'axe'.

Many of those 'good ole boys', including some in PS might have gone along with some of the others in mahogany hall.

Oh what a tangled web they weave...

I don't suppose anyone could EVER expect the AG to investigate improprieties, now, can they??

Let's see
January 10, 2014
It won't happen. They always do that. TSK TSK to you Tim, David, Judy or who ever you are trying to throw people off.
January 07, 2014
Amen---Why didn't you stay and Fight Jack??? We need you down here on the street! Bring this backwater town into the light so it can be disinfected!!!
January 07, 2014
I have personally worked for Cobb County for 10 years specifically in the Public Safety sector. The deterioration of this department and the employee moral over the past few years has sunk to unbelievable lows. We are losing great officers to other departments for a few reasons, 1) Better benefits for themselves and their families, 2) Compensation for their education, 3) Much better base pay, 4) Receiving their own vehicle (Our version of an Office). 5) Not being allowed to have a tattoo visible in any fashion putting a lot of applicants that are Veterans out of the running.

There are things that Director Forsythe has tried to implement but Hankerson absolutely won’t support.

Per Hankerson,

Dodge Chargers "look" too aggressive to the public (even though they are less expensive). Tahoe’s give the wrong perception because they look like they are gas guzzlers (they use less gas than the current Caprice which are always in the shop broke). $80.00 per hub cap because he does not want the car to appear too "aggressive".

Director Forsythe, it has been an honor having you as a part of the team although it was for a short time. Your letter of resignation was spot on and I commend you for standing up for us as you have.

Unfortunately we are now going to have a firefighter looking out for the best interest of Public Safety from the law enforcement side of things. We are neglected and as much as I want the Braves to come to Cobb…you’re setting yourself up for a massive failure. Our Commissioners need to start listening or the Cobb County will continue to bleed good and well trained officers.

Dan Davis
January 07, 2014
Hankerson must have taken "The Cobb Way" lessons from Dwight Brown. Possible bylines for a "The Cobb Way" ad campaign (no thanks necessary):

"Small minds working tirelessly to serve ourselves."

"Because we just don't care."

"Pettiness above all."

"If you won't play, we don't pay."

"What you don't see is SO much worse."

"We can't believe you pay us for this."

"No, listen. WE REALLY DON'T CARE."

"Just shut up and pay us."

"The more things change, the more we stay the same."

January 07, 2014
Again this July 4th I will be standing on the side of Cherokee Street holding signs that call for getting rid of Hankerson and Lee. The first time I did that, you would not believe the response I got from employees of Cobb and Marietta. Hankerson is the downfall of Cobb County and the moral of its employees, followed closely by Tim Lee. Hankerson is in way over his head, just ask Jack and Jill (the two jackasses he bought). Tim Lee takes his marching orders from East Cobb Civic Association, the County watch dogs--woof, woof. It should be evident just how inapt our County Officials truly are. They kept Hankerson on the payroll, giving him raises he doesn't deserve while placing the employees (the essential workers of Cobb County) on furlough. They keep telling people just how great a place Cobb County is to live, while not providing the quality of services that each resident is paying for in taxes. Also, I would just like to add that SPLOST is a slap in the face of all those that pay taxes in Cobb County, especially the home owners while those in rental communities pay nothing. I would like to know why Hankerson is threatening to fire someone the County hires. Someone who apparently is qualified to assess the conditions of the county’s emergency services, and make suggestions based on his knowledge. I for one believe that the Braves coming to Cobb County is going to make Cobb the dumping ground for crime, just like Atlanta became. If we can't handle the problems now, how will we ever handle the problems that are surely ahead of us?
January 07, 2014
Thanks to the director for standing up for us. He said out loud what we have all known for many years. The Cobb Police Department is at a critical status...we can not hire enough new officers to keep up with the ones who are leaving. If we do not become competitive with the departments taking our officers, we will never be able to handle the responsibilities necessary for the Braves stadium. Mr Director it has been an honor serving with you.
Concerned Citizen
January 07, 2014
It's so sad to see the safety of our citizens taking a backseat to other spending issues. The safety of our people should be first and foremost. The response time of our fire fighters to get to burning houses, ambulances getting to people having heart attacks, and adequate police force to get to homes in time to catch thieves should be No 1, but it seems this has gone to the bottom of the list. This is so sad. Something is very, very wrong with this scenario
January 07, 2014
I for one am very sad to see Mr Forsythe leave. We desperately need our protective services increased. Our county is sorely needing more officers, firefighters, and 911 personnel. Mr Hankerson is over his head in the intelligence needed for his position. No one can get rid of him. Does he have something to bribe everyone with? Get rid of him. All he does is take more and more from our protective services. Let's talk about the jail..we need more deputies ASAP. People have no idea how dangerous it is for the officers there. Yes people want to talk crap about them sitting around doing nothing. Well let me tell you....sometimes there are two officers running a pod of 300 or more inmates. They want the officers and other staff to call them patients? WTH? They are inmates. They are there for a reason not for a doctor's visit. So let's get back to the two officers in a pod of 300 inmates. You have one more officer or a detention specialist who is up in the tower watching over 3-5 pods. Then the nurse comes in to do pill call. The deputy with the nurse has to go in the pod to call names for pill call. So one deputy is trying to watch the nurse and watch the inmates so no one tries to reach through the pill entrance and grab the nurse or pills etc. The person in the tower can't solely watch the nurse because he's watching the pods. The other deputy that isn't in the pods is keeping up or trying to get all of the paperwork done. Anything that happens has to go on the paperwork. Mr Hankerson I challenge you to put on a uniform and go spend a week in the jail, a week in the police department, on all the shifts a week at a time, the same with the fire department. Hey why don't you go through the fire department test where you have to carry a dummy up a flight of stairs and down a flight of stairs. Ride in the police cars when they are on calls. Ride in one of the fire trucks and help with a fire. Ride in an ALS truck when it responds to every 911 call even when it's not needed. That's what EMS is for. Mr Hankerson you unfortunately suffer from what is known as The Peter Principle is a management theory which suggests that organizations risk filling management roles with people who are incompetent if they promote those who are performing well at their current role, rather than those who have proven abilities at the intended role. It is named after Laurence J. Peter who co-author of the 1969 humorous book The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong with Raymond Hull. They suggest that people will tend to be promoted until they reach their "position of maximum incompetence". You can buy it on for $4.00. But unfortunately I have met many people who suffered from this. You need to step down and stop letting our protective services suffer from whatever your problem is with them. You need to let 911 go back to being under the command of protective services. You are nothing but a uneducated manager who won't lift a finger to help and will make it your mission in life to stop anyone who will step up and help. I cannot believe you were Mr Forsythe's manager that is unacceptable and should have been the reverse. Cobb County could have been a great place to work but you have to stand in the way. What are you going to do to protect the citizens when the Braves move to Cobb? Aren't you 150 officers short? You are loosing people because you don't care about your citizens. By the way didn't you get a quarter million dollar contract this year. Sounds like shenanigans are happening right in plain view. How many more of our protective service people have to be hurt, maimed, or killed before your useless personage is gotten rid of and then Mr Forsythe can take your place. Please leave now.
January 07, 2014
Same old Cobb County. Some things never change. Too bad.
January 06, 2014
How much more does the Commission need to see to do something about Hankerson. Jack Forsythe, a professional manager from outside of Cobb County, comes in here intent on fixing the many problems inside the police department. What happens, he runs into a brick wall called Hankerson. It is clear that Hankerson can't stand being around people who are smarter and more professional than him. Instead of Lee jumping in to make Heaton director, he should be jumping to talk Forsythe into staying. But, of course, he will leave. That is the "Cobb Way."
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