by Robin Kemp

UPDATES 9:33 a.m. 7/9: adds Tennant’s title as Interim Human Resources Director

UPDATES: 4:26 p.m.: CDC says its Lynn Austin retired several years ago.

E-mails released by the Georgia Department of Public Health in response to an Open Records Request by The Clayton Crescent reveal little about Dr. Olugbenga Obasanjo’s sudden resignation in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Obasanjo, who headed the Lagrange and Clayton County health districts and who critics say wanted to combine the two, gave notice to Dr. Kathleen Toomey via an e-mail with the subject line “Resignation,” cc’ing District 4 Director of Human Resources and Business Operations Barbara Stephens, District 4 Risk Communicator Hayla Folden, Interim Human Resources Director Forrest Tennant, and GDPH Executive Assistant/Board of Health Liaison Debbi Heard at 4:33 a.m. on Monday, July 6:

Dr. Toomey,

This email serves as notice of my resignation as District Health Director at the Georgia Department of Public Health effective immediately.

Olugbenga O. Obasanjo
District Health Director
District 4, Georgia Department of Public Health

On Tuesday at 9:49 a.m., Stephens sent the following e-mail, also with the subject line “Resignation” and noted as of “high” importance:

This email is being sent to ALL staff:

Good morning,

Dr. Obasanjo has tendered his resignation as District Health Director for District 4 and Clayton Health District.

While we are sad to see him go, remember he has provided us with the skills and encouragement to continue leading District 4 and Clayton Health District into greatness. We will continue to serve our communities to the best of our abilities during this transition and beyond.

The Executive Leadership Team will work together to insure continuity of business operations and we are here for you, whatever your needs.  As soon as more definitive plans are in place, we will be in correspondence with you all.

Thank you all for your continued dedication to Public Health and serving our communities!

Barbara T. Stephens

Director of Business Operations/HR Director

District 4, Georgia Department of Public Health

At 9:51 a.m., Toomey forwarded the Stephens’ e-mail, also marked as high importance, to Dr. Audrey Arona, East Metro Health District medical director (serving Gwinnett, Newton, and Rockdale Counties), 30 other GDPH employees and herself, with the note “As discussed yesterday.”

Recipients, whose titles were not included in the email but which The Clayton Crescent retrieved from various sources such as GDPH directories and LinkedIn profiles, included:

  • Dr. Thomas Craft, South Central Health District director
  • Dr. Lawton Davis, Coastal Health District director
  • Dr. Sandra Ford, Dekalb County Board of Health director
  • Dr. Stephen Goggans, East Central Health District director
  • Dr. William Grow, South Health District director
  • Dr. Renee Haynes, North Central Health District director
  • Dr. Pamela Logan, North Health District director
  • Dr. Lynn Paxton, Fulton County Board of Health District director
  • Dr. Janet Memark, Cobb and Douglas District director
  • Dr. Rosemarie Parks, Southeast Health District director
  • Dr. Charles Ruis, Southwest Health District director
  • Dr. Zachary Taylor, North Georgia Health District director
  • Dr. Beverly Townsend, West Central Health District director
  • Dr. Gary Voccio, Northwest Georgia Health District director

The e-mail also was cc’d to:

  • Megan Andrews, attorney and GDPH director of government relations
  • Lynn Austin
  • Rosalyn Bacon, Programs and Services Director, Clayton County Board of Health
  • Yvette Daniels, attorney and GDPH Director of University Relations
  • Cherie Drenzek, DVM, State Epidemiologist
  • Dr. Elizabeth Franko, Public Health Laboratory director
  • Emily Jones, Deputy Director of Government Relations
  • Ricky Keheley, GDPH Inspector General
  • Sara Kroening, RN, MSN, Deputy Chief Nurse School Health, Office of Nursing
  • Anthony McGaughey, Interim Chief Information Officer
  • Kristen Miller, GDPH General Counsel
  • Nancy Nydam, Communications director
  • LaToya Osmani, GDPH Division Director
  • Chris Rustin, DrPH, Health Protection director
  • Fanny Vazquez, Fulton County Board of Health Executive Assistant
  • Lee Wright, GDPH Chief Financial Officer

The Clayton Crescent has asked GDPH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to confirm whether the Lynn Austin cc’d is the CDC’s Chief of Staff. A CDC spokesperson said Austin retired several years ago.

Attempts to reach Obasanjo were not successful as of press time.

In December 2019, Obasanjo and District operations Director Keisha Dixon led members of the local media on a tour of renovations at the Battle Creek Road headquarters. A grand opening had been scheduled for June 1 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.