A Golden Parachute: ABAC writes $100,000 check for ex-police chief

Photo of the front of campus by Dalton Spangler.
Photo of former Police Chief Bryan Golden courtesy of WALB.

     ABAC wrote former campus Police Chief, Bryan Golden, a $100,000 check as part of a settlement agreement between ABAC and Golden.

     Golden was terminated from his position on Nov. 13, 2015. He was previously suspended without pay from ABAC Oct. 26, 2015, due to his comments in an interview with The Stallion Newspaper and was required to take sensitivity training.

     In the story titled “One in four college women have survived rape or attempted rape,” printed Oct. 27, 2015, Golden was quoted saying, “Most of these sexual assaults are women waking up the next morning with a guilt complex. That ain’t rape, that’s being stupid. When the dust settles, it was all consensual. It doesn’t happen here. It doesn’t show up here. They’re about as much a rape as a goat roping.”

     Golden refused an interview about the settlement.

     ABAC and the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia issued the settlement in order to “avoid further controversy and to resolve and settle all disputes existing between them.”

     The litigation was finalized on December 21, 2017. The payment was made public in the fiscal year 2018 state financial report on June 30, 2018. It was paid for with state funds.

     In the settlement, Golden and his legal representation claim Golden was terminated “without providing him any specific reasons, therefore, in writing or otherwise, other than the alleged comments for which it previously had already disciplined him by suspending him without pay and by issuing a final reprimand to him, and without permitting Golden an opportunity to respond to the charges either before he was terminated, or after he was terminated.”

     Golden and his legal representation additionally claimed that his suspension was due to “allegedly engaging in an inappropriate conversation with the college newspaper,” that Golden denied, and was not given an opportunity to present his case before a disciplinary review panel of some kind.

     In a press conference hosted by President David Bridges Nov. 14, 2015, Bridges announced the termination and said, “An effective law enforcement department requires public credibility and trust. The public’s trust in Bryan Golden’s leadership has seemingly been eroded to a point where he cannot ensure integrity in his function with the police department that must be insured. The inappropriate comments made by the chief and reported in The Stallion were reprehensible and inexcusable.”

     Jenna Pope, author of the “One in Four” story, after hearing word that the settlement was made said, “When Bryan Golden said something that implied that his prior behavior was not receptive to women’s experiences or that they could not comfortably report their experiences in the future, he damaged his own reputation and the reputation of ABAC. For ABAC to reward him with a $100,000 settlement instead of trying to improve campus safety (as was the immediate response from female students on campus), to give that to someone who showed such little regard for women’s safety, is very offensive as a survivor of sexual assault and as author of the article.”

     Shelby Evans, Editor of The Stallion at the time and contributor to the “One in four” story has mixed feelings about the settlement. “After he resigned, I felt bad about it. He lost a good paying job right before the holidays, and listen, I grew up poor so I understand what that’s like. So part of me thinks the settlement was okay because it matches the money he lost during that time.”

     Evans is also a survivor of sexual assault, but she believes it’s important to separate her emotions about that from her thoughts so that she can remain compassionate. She thinks it’s important students and taxpayers know how their money is spent but doesn’t think Golden should be vilified.

     She continues, “Ultimately, I’m not personally responsible for what happened and what has happened after the story was published, but I do feel like our campus is safer and more receptive to people who experience assault and, to me, that fact matters most.”

Addendum: March 14, 2019

     ABAC officials declined to comment on the settlement, saying that discussing personnel matters is against college policy. 

     Lindsey Roberts, director of marketing and communications at ABAC, said in a written statement in reference to campus safety, “The ABAC Police Department has a staff of 15 State Sworn Certified Peace Officers working 8-hour shifts to provide Law Enforcement and security services to the Campus community and its visitors.”
    ABAC has made additions to campus since the “One in four” story to better ensure safety for the campus community and visitors according to Roberts. Additional lighting and emergency call boxes have been installed on campus and the LiveSafe app was implemented in 2016 for ABAC students, faculty and staff. The LiveSafe app is a mobile safety communications platform built for universities and businesses.

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