Resignation Letters Fails and Wins: 2014 Edition

Every year brings a fresh crop of job-changers. Some are shoved out of the office involuntarily, others pick the time and circumstances. We're grateful to the following who chronicled their departures with a resignation letter in 2014.

1. David Waddell, Town of Indian Trail, North Carolina

Indian Trail plumber-turned-politician David Waddell drafted his resignation letter from the Town Council in Klingon. The English translation read: "Teach city constitution. I will return next time to witness victory. Resignation occurs in 2014 the 31st of January. Perhaps today is good day resign." Klingon expert Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen said there was no word for "resignation" in Klingon, and Waddell should have simply written "pltlh" which translates to "done." Indian Trails Mayor Michael Alvarez said the letter was an "embarrassment." His final comment to Waddell: "live long and prosper." Waddell later ran, unsuccessfully, as a write-in candidate for the U.S. Senate. He remains CEO of David Waddell Plumbing.

2. Valerie Macon, Poet Laureate, North Carolina

North Carolina's professional poetry community slammed the selection of Valerie Macon, a self-published poet and state employee, to the post of poet laureate. Four of her predecessors pronounced her appointment a "disaster." After less than a week on the job, Macon resigned over questions about her credentials. "I would like to encourage everyone to read and write poetry," she wrote. "They do not need prestigious publishing credits or a collection of accolades from impressive organizations - just the joy of words and appreciation of self-expression." Governor Pat McCrory released a statement accepting her resignation, but condemned the "hostility and condescension" these poets directed at his appointee. Her replacement has not been named.

3. Dennis Kneier, Mayor of San Marino

Shortly after being caught on video tossing a bag of dog waste on a neighbor's lawn, Mayor Dennis Kneier submitted his resignation letter to his colleagues on the San Marino city council. "I have apologized to my neighbor for my action, and I will pay a fine for littering," he wrote. "These events continue to be embarrassing to me and to the city. Because of this, I have decided to step down as mayor." Kneier asserted he found the bag of waste on a sidewalk and erred in tossing it onto the lawn of a political opponent, Philip Lao, who had opposed creation of a dog park in the wealthy Southern California community. At the time of the incident, Mr. Lao clearly displayed a "No Poop Zone" sign on his front lawn.

4. Max Schireson, CEO, MongoDB

The CEO of this database company resigned in August 2014 with this shortened message:

"I have 3 wonderful kids at home, aged 14, 12 and 9, and I love spending time with them: skiing, cooking, playing backgammon, swimming, watching movies or Warriors or Giants games, talking, whatever.

I am on pace to fly 300,000 miles this year, all the normal CEO travel plus commuting between Palo Alto and New York every 2-3 weeks. During that travel, I have missed a lot of family fun, perhaps more importantly, I was not with my kids when our puppy was hit by a car or when my son had (minor and successful, and of course unexpected) emergency surgery.

I have an amazing wife who also has an important career; she is a doctor and professor at Stanford where, in addition to her clinical duties, she runs their training program for high risk obstetricians and conducts research on on prematurity, surgical techniques, and other topics. She is a fantastic mom, brilliant, beautiful, and infinitely patient with me. I love her, I am forever in her debt for finding a way to keep the family working despite my crazy travel. I should not continue abusing that patience.

Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood. Somehow, the same people don't ask me.

A few months ago, I decided the only way to balance was by stepping back from my job. [...] I recognize that by writing this I may be disqualifying myself from some future CEO role. Will that cost me tens of millions of dollars someday? Maybe. Life is about choices."

5. Bill Gross, Chief Investment Officer, Pimco

After investors withdrew funds for 16 consecutive months from Pimco's $1.6 trillion Total Return Fund, Gross resigned, took a job with competitor Janus Capital Group, and released his resignation letter:

"I can add colours to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
And set the murderous Machiavel to school.
-- Henry VI, Part III

Dear Friends, Colleagues and Co-workers,

For the past 43 years, Pacific Investment Management Co. has been my home, as well as my pride and joy. With great sadness, I must bid her adieu, not because I want to leave, but because I must. It is the natural order of things for all seasons to change; for the next generation must be given its chance. A new epoch is upon us. Ashes to ashes . . . .

All those reasons -- plus truth be told, an imminent palace coup -- meant it was time for me to go.

... The immense wealth I helped to create for my colleagues, partners and clients over all that time meant nothing, once Machiavelli's stratagems were put into play.

There is a standard sequence of events for all insurrections, and this one was no different. It included the favored tactics: A public character assassination, the quiet intimations that I had lost it (erratic behavior, dark glasses at a presentation, an elegy to my cat Bob). Add to that a break with a trusted associate, which implied something nefarious about that behavior (How did Mohamed manage to resign from Pimco, yet stay employed at Allianz? I couldn't pull that one off).

These hints and allegations were easy to make, especially given my natural eccentricities. But I put this question to you: Was I so different from any other California billionaire? The TM and yoga, the occasional head stand, a well-deserved bark at a wayward underling -- these and all manner of behavior that no one ever thought about before suddenly took on all sorts of dark implications once the coup was under way. Never underestimate the impact of a whisper campaign.

On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. Translation: "One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye."

I must point out that these idiosyncrasies have been on display for decades, and were never looked on askance. At least, not while the alpha was piling up and the assets under management were rolling in.

But alas, that chapter has come to an end; it is now time to look forward.

...There will always be a special place in my heart for Pimco. I wish all of you all of the luck in the world, as I leave you in charge of her. She's your baby now. Try not to screw it up too badly.

William H. Gross
Managing Director, Retired"

6. Darren Wilson, Ferguson Police Officer

On November 29, 2014, Officer Darren Wilson resigned from the Ferguson Police Department:

"I, Darren Wilson, hereby resign my commission as police officer with the City of Ferguson effective immediately. I have been told that my continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the City of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance that I cannot allow. For obvious reasons, I wanted to wait until the grand jury made their decision before I officially made my decision to resign. It was my hope to continue in police work, but the safety of other police officers and the community are of paramount importance to me. It is my hope that my resignation will allow the community to heal. I would like to thank all of my supporters and fellow officers throughout this process."

7. The New Republic Contributing Editors

The New York Times reported in December that "a significant chunk" of The New Republic magazine's workforce resigned in protest over the departures of editor Franklin Foer and literary editor Leon Wielseltier. A resignation letter co-signed by ten contributing editors read:

"Dear Mr. Hughes,

We are contributing editors of The New Republic, and our commitment to the venerable principles of the magazine requires us now to resign. Please remove our names from the masthead.

Upon her resignation, senior editor Julia Ioffe described the departures at the magazine: 'It was like the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones.'"

8. Jim Atchison, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc.

Atchison stepped down as CEO in December, without releasing a resignation letter. FunnyOrDie, however, filled in the historical gap with this version:

"To Whom it May Concern:

Effective immediately, I am stepping down from my position of Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld. Since the release of the documentary film Blackfish -- a documentary suggesting a whale killed a trainer because it was driven to psychosis by extreme maltreatment -- profits have been abysmal, attendance is lower than ever before, and more and more people believe that everything we stand for is cruel and exploitative of intelligent, sensitive animals.

However, that's not why I'm stepping down. No one here gives a hoot about any of that. No, I'm resigning because I ate one of the whales.

I always wanted to know what whales tasted like; I would salivate as I watched them swim around in the water like huge rubber cows. Then when I found out that Tilikum (one of the male orcas) was a true killer, I figured, 'it sounds like he deserves to be eaten, and I'm the one to do it.'

So one night, I snuck into the whale pen, picked out the whale I thought was Tilikum (it was dark, who knows for sure), pulled him out of the water, roasted him on a 40-foot spit, and ate him. I ate the whole thing: head, tail, vagina (I now think it wasn't Tilikum), eyes, everything.

It tasted pretty good, too, kind of fishy -- like a steak that fell in the ocean and was treated like a cheap mattress by a couple of horny fish. Went through a whole tree's worth of lemons. I was so full from eating six tons of blubber and meat I fell asleep next to the skeletal remains. Security caught me in the morning.

Needless to say, the top brass at SeaWorld were pretty upset I ate one of the whales. 'This crosses the line,' they said. 'Keeping whales in glorified fish tanks, forcing them to do tricks for children, refusing to do anything about a whale who intentionally drowns humans because we value his sperm, allowing the whales to grate each other's skin until it scars and bleeds -- that's all fine. But this, this is despicable.'

I admit it -- they are right. Everything we do is wrong, but killing and eating a whale is a bit too wrong.

That is why I am resigning as CEO. Though I will receive a $2.4 million dollar payout for resigning, and will now become vice chairman of the board at SeaWorld, I promise I will not feel too good about it.

I also swear I will never eat another whale -- unless of course, it becomes the only way we can sell tickets. Then, if it comes to that, I'll toss on my bib, grab my pitchfork and machete, and I'll give you one hell of a show -- the kind of show you can only find at SeaWorld.


Jim Atchison
Vice Chairman, SeaWorld

9. Various personnel, Obama Administration

The Obama administration provided four of the biggest resignation stories of the year: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigned in April; Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in May; Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned in October; and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigned in November. Their resignation letters were not released by the White House.