Cobb schools' top investigator may be out
by Megan Thornton
May 11, 2013 12:32 AM | 16090 views | 51 51 comments | 59 59 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mary Finlayson
Mary Finlayson
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Cobb County Schools has come under pressure recently to change the way it investigates educators accused of misconduct and may have already taken action to remove its top internal investigator.

Multiple sources close to the situation told the MDJ that Mary Finlayson, the district’s professional standards and ethics director who has led the charge in several high-profile investigations of school principals, may be on her way out.

After the last investigation fell apart because of a lack of evidence, the school district became the target of criticism by parents and teacher advocates who said it had taken a “guilty until proven innocent” approach to investigating accusations. Most of the cases have involved a principal allegedly not reporting a case of sexual misconduct.

District officials would not confirm reports that Finlayson had been terminated or asked to resign, but unofficial sources said Finlayson worked her last day Thursday, even though she would still be on the payroll for a few more days.

When pressed Friday on whether Finlayson was still employed in her position, the communications director for Cobb Schools, Jay Dillon, said “technically, yes.”

He also released a joint statement from Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and Board Chair Randy Scamihorn.

The statement acknowledges “concerns that have been expressed about certain employment decisions” but did not touch on Finlayson’s employment status, nor did it mention her by name.

“We take the concerns very seriously and have spent the last several weeks looking at changes that need to be made,” the statement reads. “Though personnel decisions can be difficult, we strive to make decisions that are in the best interest of the Cobb County schools.”

Sources said Finlayson was told her position would be eliminated because of budget cuts. However, Finlayson’s job is funded through July 1, when the 2014-15 budget kicks in.

The statement acknowledged that CCSD’s central office will face a reduction in positions, noting reorganization is “inevitable” in the coming school year.

Scamihorn said the Cobb School Board is in the midst of a tough budget season as it tries to make up for an $86 million shortfall.

“Our tentative budget has 16 people cut at the central office and 182 out in the field at schools and other offices; most of them are teachers unfortunately,” Scamihorn said Friday.

Also up in the air is what will happen with Finlayson’s staff of two full-time investigators, Chris Dowd and Jay Morrissey.

One source suggested they could be reassigned to other jobs within the central office.

Finlayson, who was a former county police investigator before joining the school system, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Finlayson led investigations into three high-profile cases over the past couple of school years.

Allegations against Awtrey Middle School Principal Jeff Crawford were dropped earlier this month, following an unsubstantiated claim that he failed to report an incident of reported rape. The alleged incident took place off school grounds between two seventh-grade students and it was later determined that no rape took place.

In another case, Kell High School Principal Trudie Donovan resigned last school year after district officials, led by Finlayson, brought accusations that she failed to file a mandatory report within 24 hours. The criminal charges against Donovan were dismissed March 27 of this year.

Just a few months prior to Donovan’s resignation, the school board approved the firing of both Tapp Middle School Principal Dr. Jerry Dority and counselor Yatta Collins for similar allegations.

Comments
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CCSD Employee
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May 14, 2013
As someone who has been on the other side of one of Ms. Finlayson's (unjust) "investigations", I can personally attest from experience to Ms. Finlayson's mishandling of investigations, her bias, and her guilty-until-proven-innocent modus operandi; all served with a heaping helping of disrespect for her colleagues that worked tirelessly to give our children the education they deserve. I for one am glad to see this tyrannical bureaucrat go.
LisaK56
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May 15, 2013
Now if only her cronies would go down with her.
Still Lovin it
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May 14, 2013
@rob finlayson

Yeah u gotta sign your name, so that you can go home and have some modicum of peace, while soothing that self-righteous - person. U have to be on her side, and you are defending her, but just like you are accusing others of, you are only hearing one side.

Might it just be possible that some, even a lot, of those posting comments have actual grievances against your wife/sister? Or maybe you and all of her supporters actually believe that every career she ended deserved it? Just like every man in prison is guilty, but lying too hunh? Sounds like simple cop logic, that allows them to sleep at night.

Nobody has even said that everyone was innocent. I am seeing comments of those who feel that they were treated unfairly, forced to comment without legal representation, made testimony and rebuttal that was not aptly considered, not given the benefit of the doubt based upon years of service and track records, not given a voice in obvious vendetta cases, and those who simply have been treated meanly and without any respect.

I have worked in Cobb for years and have never heard one person ever say that she fought for them, unless they were the accuser. Bottom line it seems that she could and should have learnt a better bedside manner while tending people's ailing careers. The last thing that somebody wants, while possibly facing termination or suspension is a brash, cold, disrespectful bully, making snide remarks. Maybe this has happened to her somewhere along the line and she is just perpetuating the cycle. But whatever scars she may bear, don't warrant the treatment that she levied upon human beings, that she deemed indecent without really knowing,

And just like some of those people who were fired deserved it, I am sure that some were fired who did not deserve it. And if all of you who support her can't acknowledge that possibility, then your bias is more emotional than rational, and you do her no true service.

Some of these postings are bitterness, pure and simple. But there might just be some folks here who have been done a great disservice, and they don't sign their names because they've already been public spectacles, just like your callous mate is now becoming.

There is blood in the water, and the people are thirsty. Tastes like Mary...yum

happy days 2013
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May 13, 2013
i'm sooooooooooooooooooooo happy to see the evil one go..i'm sure there will be a pitchfork with her name waiting for her some day.hope being thrown under the bus by cobb county fills as good to her as it did when she did it to others.
to bad !
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May 13, 2013
miss finlayson please remember all the bus driver's while looking for work u fired! mr. grisham and mr warner in trans/fleetmaintenanc ie

bus barn! your ace is gone. start packing..
big yellow cheese!
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May 13, 2013
what goes aroung comes around! to all in support of miss finlayson. talk to all the bus driver.a and bus mechanices she fired thu mr. rick grasham

and michael warner in transportation and fleet maintenane department. in 3 years, then u will know the real miss finlayson! even after the cobb co grand jury investiating the department and found grisham and warner in the wrong. and agreed the the bus driver;s where in the right. and to this day, bus drivers get write up's for not clocking in and out on the ome millon dollar nextel radio's that dont pick up an segnal! in some parts of the co. let's not forget the big law suit the bus driver she and grisham fired !

coming up. will cost the taxpayer's millon;s

please mr dr. hinojosa bring your shovel to transportation and dig deep. you should clean house. p/s mdj keep the heat on. list the law suit's that pending. thanks again.
relax adults
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May 13, 2013
I am not sure adults get the fact that kids lie and can watch a short clip online on how to get your teacher fired. Why is everyone attacking the adults in these cases give me a break Brigham is a family man so is Donavan a family lady and let's not forget the other person fired in this case. What about the damage of false charges towards them? Who in the world would do what this teacher was accused of with a class full of kids? No one would and kids that have been abused it takes a lot to get them to talk about it.The child seeked revenge on this teacher and she won 3 people were fired or forced to quit or retire . Did Mrs. Finlayson investigate the facts on the child and her intentions? No she bullied all of the Educators in this case to quit show up without a lawyer with little or no time to take a good look at it.Do you get the fact that false charges on a person is illegal maniulative and down right dirty on these teachers? Some thing has to give and until you have camera's in every little room in the school this stuff will continue, lives destroyed it is not right.It is a sad day when this investagator also has to be in her horrible postion also.

Back to the kids for the false illegal acts the should be punished also legal or in the school system.They are going to be the cause of the boy crying wolf.These acts of crimes go reversed also and unforchantly they did this to some really good adults.Some one has to pay however I see nothing nothing making the kids in every case in Cobb County punishing the kids.If you don't know about lying manipulating children or refuse to do anything about them with consequences then no you don't need to be a teacher or in the field even if you're afraid.The proof is in their records.Hello MCFLIES .This is a huge mess up on the witch hunt on teachers I hope and pray this makes headlines and it is fixed and in East Cobb I am not sure why the parents don't demand cameras this is ridiculous folks.

Not all people are out to harm kids, however we have a real issue with a few kids knowing right from wrong, Did you read where there was cheating in his class? Here is our learning lesson for the day it is called Revenge this is so sad that it was allowed to play out and ruin lives even this womans. All because no one really looked into it .A principle must be allowed to also figure out if a child is retaliating because of a punishment.Act like adults and PLEASE make sure an act really happened before Cobb is real quick to convict a teacher bully them into quitting before all the facts are very clear on all issues at hand.Stop being afraid to get the kids that can not main stream and you know it they don't learn this way in classes they don't belong in.When I was a kid we had Green Acres and schools that are equipped to handle the behaviour issues.It is just a fact of life that some humans have mental health issues and can not fit in without special schooling and building them up.Every one lost this is so sad. All of it.Everyone is afraid to say it like it is and afraid to suspend and expel the kids that do wrong things what a joke in public schools.This should have never been about the teachers and about the kids all of the cases in the end like the clips say on how to get your teacher fired ,you get them fired so you never have to see them again.Do your home work read online what some kids are learning. Stop blaming Educators for kids that can't or don't know how to behave.
soumynona
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May 14, 2013
This woman also forced the teacher to go into an interrogation with NO ATTORNEY, and she told him he had to or be in contempt. Someone close to him said that his attorney and his advocate told him he did not have to go into the meeting and this woman made him go or face worse charges. She deserves to be fired, and sued. Here's hoping that the teachers, bus drivers, principals and counselors that were forced into resigning will all get an attorney and file as someone else so eloquently put it, a "class action lawsuit".
Ffolks
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May 14, 2013
Wow. What did you just say?
Col. Kurtz
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May 13, 2013
Hey ...why does CCSD even need an investigator for ...? Everyone knows teachers and police officers are not capable of mistakes, unethical conduct, or criminal activiy ...NOT!

"Children are weak and easily victimized ...

Therefore, no one should have complete power or control over them."
Karl Reimers
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May 13, 2013
I worked with Mary Finlayson at Cobb Police for four years.We were partners in the Cobb Crimes Against Children Unit. Both of us received a Bureau Commendation for service to the citizens of Cobb County.I have nothing but the upmost respect for her and her ability as an investigator. To suggest that she acted in any way other than that of integrity and honor is complete nonsense. I am also a parent of a child in Cobb County School. You had better hope nothing happens to my child. Leadership at Cobb County is now seriously in question.
CCSD Supporter
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May 13, 2013
If Cobb police love her so much, you can now rehire her. She let a perception of power go to her head and it affected the lives and careers of so many people. She should have been fired when Dr. Dunnegun was fired! She treated simple policy infractions by teachers, bus drivers, etc as if they were murder charges. She is NOT a scape goat. She is the one to blame for lying to the Board on MANY occasions.
Bob Coleman
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May 13, 2013
Mr. Reimers, your respect is completely misplaced. Finlayson is arrogant, presumptive, biased and power-mad. She levels totally unfounded allegations without hesitation, engaging in slander and libel without pause or apology. She has no place in public service because she has no grasp of the concept. If Cobb County Police doesn't want her back, she can run for public office as a Tea Party crazy.
Why did she leave?
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May 14, 2013
Karl, as her friend and former partner, please enlighten us as to why she left leave Cobb Police?
Be ashamed
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May 13, 2013
It's so easy to even blame the board... where do you think they get their information from before they vote on a tribunal or case? From the investigator's office. If the investigations dept makes a recommendation to the district and the district trusts them, they will defend that case. If the board themselves investigated each and every case, that would be micromanaging which would bring SACS to pull Cobb's accreditation so fast it would make your head spin. The board has to rely on the information that is presented to them; if it is skewed by the time it gets to them, what do they do?

Every one of you that have viciously responded to this article without knowing the facts are all like piranha; you smell blood and start your attack; it's pathetic.
anonymous
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May 13, 2013
It's a real bummer when the chickens come home to roost.

I'm guessing the CCSD is a little perturbed that Ms. Finlayson is involved as a defendant in at least one very large lawsuit, perhaps more. How much does this cost the taxpayers? Shouldn't this information be made public?

People say she really enjoys making others squirm under her interrogation tactics. Now I suppose reading these comments makes her feel somewhat similar to the way she's made others feel.
anonymous
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May 12, 2013
Having worked with Mary, she only did what was best for the school district. Those who want to let deadbeats stick around when there is a huge deficit will be celebrating, but not me. Mary did her job, and like others mentioned here, she reported what was going on and if people lost their job, someone else signed off on it. if she really is gone, she will be ,missed.
Angela Freeman
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May 12, 2013
Is this a "scape goat" situation, placing all the blame on the Chief Investigator, Mary Finlayson? Look at the second to the last line...THE SCHOOL BOARD APPROVED THE FIRING...Mary Finlayson does not fire people. She uses her vast investigational knowledge to assemble the facts. Then she turns over her investigation to THE SCHOOL BOARD who has legal representation to decide the outcome of a Cobb County School Employee who endangers your child or infringes on their individual rights. Do you want an impartial investigation team looking out for your children or do you want to "leave it up to the Principles of each school"? Remember the recent arrests in Clayton County and the City of Atlanta School systems. They have no impartial investigational team to investigate alligations. Remember, ALLIGATIONS come before an investigation. Mary Finlayson was doing the job for which she was hired. Thank you Mary for your dedication and forcefulness with which you did your job to protect our children and their envoirnment.
LisaK56
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May 13, 2013
The Mary Finlayson with whom I dealt is far from impartial.
surprised?
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May 13, 2013
It's about time investigations are being done on her...most if not all principals in Cobb County are protected from the "higher" ups and most situations end up with dropped charges...I can name three incidents I know of that weren't even mentioned. I say get honest, caring people who enjoy "Helping" people and believing in the system!
CobbCoGuy
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May 12, 2013
"The criminal charges against Donovan were dismissed March 27 of this year."

Criminal charges? CRIMINAL...?!?!?!...charges?

IF...there was any wrongdoing, why was this not simply a CCSD disciplinary function?

If Mr. William Farley is correct, who in CCSD referred the matter to Cobb Police? And, why?

Can someone please cite the relevant statutes?
3312
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May 11, 2013
Mary Finlayson is a highly skilled investigator that has served our community well for many years. Those that know her can see straight through the BOE strategy of using her as a scapegoat. Lots of folks are pulling for you and your family!
Same tactics?
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May 11, 2013
Can someone tell us why Mary left the Cobb Police Department? Wasn't it the same thing - accusing people of things they didn't do? the teacher at Kell along with the principal should file suit - tomorrow.
William Farley
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May 11, 2013
To be completely fair, Ms Finlayson was not the one who secured charges against those administrators...the Cobb County Police did. And to do so, they had to present evidence before a magistrate judge, and he had to determine that there was probable cause. Should they have placed the accused on administrative leave? Probably...and Ms Finlayson should not be the one to decide if someone is fired. That should be the board.
Responsibilities
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May 11, 2013
True. How is one person made responsible for the actions of administrators', police investigators', judges', and board members' actions? She was supervised. What happens to her supervisor?
Just Wait
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May 11, 2013
Finlayson was an egotistical investigator with the police department who thought she was better than the job. It only makes scene that it would continue on with the school board. There should be an investigation of her ethics in her investigations.
Trickle up?
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May 11, 2013
I disagree. How can a single person affect the school board? The board has the power, not Ms. Finlayson. She did her job; had supervisors over her; had the school board over her; had judges, investigators, and police working together. All Mary did was RECEIVE REPORTS from TEACHERS, ADMINISTRATORS, OTHER SCHOOL STAFF MEMBERS, AND PARENTS. She acted upon the information she was given by others. She also answered to her boss on each investigation. How did she so amply affect the entire school board? 'Trickle Up' affect? Ludicrous!
just saying
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May 29, 2013
All cases handled by Finlayson and her department should be be thoroughly reviewed, including the audio tapes from interrogations. The chief human resources officer and super make recommendations based on the recommendation of Finlayson. They don't review the evidence themselves, they take her word for what happened. If your name is going to be signed on legal documents, you should verify the "facts" you are given are accurate.
Rob Finlayson
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May 11, 2013
Mary has spend her career embodying three simple principles:

1. Tell the truth

2. Act Honorably

3. Always do the right thing

We would all do well to learn from her integrity to hold these principles.

I'll sign my name to thank her for her service. It has been tireless and selfless.

Thank you Mary!

Melody Suttles
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May 11, 2013
I absolutely agree. I have known Mary Finlayson personally and professionally for 20 years. She lives by her principles of personal discipline, integrity, honesty, and most of all, a sincere desire to protect children. I've seen her dedication. I've seen her fairness and willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty for the sense of fair play. She is and should be to all who know her an inspiration.
Get it straight
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May 12, 2013
First, Ms. Finlayson's job never included firing principals. She even fought for some to not be fired. Second, Ms. Finlayson's job was to RESPOND to reports made by teachers, administrators, other staff, child protective services, the police, and parents.

She never went after anyone. She simply responded to reports others made.

I have know Ms. Finlayson personally ad professionally for 20 years. She is a woman of integrity, self-discipline, honesty, and a heart for the welfare of children.

She answered to higher-ups, right? They along with Board Members and executives are the ones who made the decisions to fire Principals. Not Mary Finlayson. She's a fall guy; thrown under the bus. Plain and simple.
saw the other side
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May 13, 2013
Of course you would speak highly of her if you are related or a co-worker...people tend to show their best side to those they work with. However, this woman did not bother to investigate anything, just took the principals word on whatever someone was being accused of, even if it was something ridiculous. She was arrogant and hateful to anyone who was being unfairly targeted by her arrogant principal friends. I'm glad she is getting to see how it feels to lose your job just because someone else wants you to take the fall.
How was she able...
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November 18, 2013
to be hired by her husband is what I want to know. Nepotism laws be damned i suppose.
ecobber
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May 11, 2013
Also true for teacher in same incident that Donovan was fired for. That teacher took away the girl's cell phone, and she retaliated. No investigation at all, and the kids there at Kell knew it was a lie. A straight F student suspended 3 times in 1 year, lying through her teeth got 3 good people fired and there was no investigation at all.
Concerned Citizen
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May 11, 2013
This is an outrage. So many of us in the community that know the situation that forced Mrs. Donovan and Mr. Brigham to resign understand now why it happened the way it did. Mrs. Finlayson seems like a bully and messed up investigation after investigation. I hope that CCSD has deep pockets after this, because if I was Crawford or Donovan I would own that place.
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