ATLANTA — Georgia's commissioner of Public Safety is out after he was asked to resign by Gov. Brian Kemp in the wake of the cheating scandal at the Georgia State Patrol.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray broke the news Thursday of Col. Mark McDonough’s resignation. The new leadership at the Georgia State Patrol will be handpicked by Kemp.
The resignation came during a normal board meeting Thursday, but Gray was tipped off of the surprise announcement ahead of time.
McDonough received a standing ovation in front of the Public Safety Board.
The resignation comes two weeks after Channel 2 Action News broke the story of 31 state troopers being fired for cheating on a radar test before graduating last year. All were from the same cadet class.
Just moments after resigning McDonough told Gray that Kemp asked for his resignation after eight and a half years at the top of GSP.
“The governor made a clear indication he is moving in the direction of new leadership. That’s what we elected him for,” McDonough said. “He’s my commander in chief, hence you take the action I took. You get out of the way.”
McDonough told the board that a complete internal audit of GSP training is now underway after the cheating scandal.
“This is a punch in the gut to us and all of our folks,” McDonough said.
In a statement, Kemp said:
“My family and I thank Colonel McDonough for his dedicated service, leadership, and sacrifice. We wish him the very best in the years ahead.”
“You voted to accept this resignation. Do you feel like this was the right decision?” Gray asked Ellison Wood, vice chairman of the Georgia Board of Public Safety.
“Certainly, that was the decision the governor felt he had to make, and this board supports the governor in his decisions,” Ellison said.
McDonough told Gray as a naval academy graduate, he was trained that the person at the top is ultimately responsible.
He'll retire March 1.
By Thursday evening, Channel 2 Action News learned that deputy commissioner Lt. Col. Russell Powell had also resigned at the governor’s request.
The governor's office told Gray it has no details yet on who the governor will announce to take McDonough’s place.
As for the investigation into the cheating, Gray learned two investigators are still looking into each trooper who was involved in the scandal. A full audit of the training program is underway.
McDonough said he couldn’t share what changes could be coming as a result of those investigations because that will now be up to his replacement.
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