What the chairman didn’t discuss was the elephant in the room — the bombshell resignation letter by Public Safety Director Jack L. Forsythe accusing Lee and County Manager David Hankerson of failing to take action on what Forsythe says are critical needs in the police department, especially retention of officers.
In his letter to Hankerson, Forsythe said on “13 different dates” information about the “unsustainable situation” was presented to the Hankerson and Lee. “You (Hankerson) have on several occasions stated that you know the current staffing level is not sustainable, but on the other hand, when requesting a management study since Feb. 23, 2013, to validate my analysis, you have failed to give DPS the permission to complete this process. You have stated that 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.”
Forsythe, who came to the job with sterling credentials — executive jobs with NASA and FEMA/Homeland Security — said Hankerson blocked efforts to remedy the problems: “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.”
Aside from the issues surrounding lack of police manpower, Forsythe had a big problem with his salary going forward. He said his resignation will be effective Jan. 21 in keeping with his pledge to stay for one year at his current salary ($138,000) — which he said was “$30,000 below the national average for public safety directors across the country.” He said he was never told by Hankerson “the only possible salary increase in the future would be the 3 percent merit offered to all employees.” That indicates he would not have stayed on without a major salary increase, regardless of what he says is a crisis in the police department.
Lee said Cobb Fire Chief Sam Heaton, appointed interim public safety director, will be proposed for the position permanently at the commission’s Jan. 14 meeting. He dismissed Forsythe’s charges by saying, “We appreciate all of Jack’s efforts … and wish him well.”
But what about Forsythe’s assertions, specifically what he says is a crisis in manpower retention and morale in the police department? If he’s right, Lee and Hankerson should say so and take steps to fix these problems. And neither has said Forsythe is wrong. So what about the elephant in the room, Mr. Chairman?