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Joe Rodota

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The Year in Resignations

Posted: 12/17/10 03:02 PM ET

At the beginning of 2010, a Conference Board survey of 5,000 households found that just 45 percent of Americans were happy with their jobs, and one out of five workers surveyed said they were looking for the right moment to leave their current employers.

Opportunity knocked for many, and a few of them commemorated their departure in a resignation letter. (Although 2010's highest profile quitter, JetBlue's Steven Slater, resigned without putting his thoughts in writing.) Most resignation letters are just a few sentences long, if that. But now and then someone gets inspired and treats their exit strategy as a creative writing assignment. Here are some of the more interesting resignation letters of 2010.

In February, Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz announced his resignation via Twitter, in Haiku: "Financial crisis/Stalled too many customers/CEO no more."

In politics, Jim Greer resigned the chairmanship of the Florida Republican party, following accusations of financial impropriety. Greer's letter blasted "a small but vocal group" of activists who he said "are more interested in tearing and shredding the fabric of the Republican Party to pieces." Greer was indicted in May and is currently awaiting trial on six felony counts accusing him of misappropriating party funds.

In a blistering four-page resignation letter, Republican National Committee political director Gentry Collins flayed Chairman Michael Steele. The RNC, he wrote, "allowed its major donor base to wither" and through mismanagement had failed to pick up 21 additional House seats. Steele shrugged off the criticism, saying that RNC fundraising has been a "clear, and readily quantifiable, success."

And on his way out the door in March, Democratic Congressman Eric Massa posted his resignation letter online, blaming the "toxic atmosphere" in Washington and hinting that his opposition to Obamacare made him a target of the Democratic leadership. Still, he admitted: "During long car rides, in the early hours of the evening, late at night and always in private, I know that my own language failed to meet the standards that I set for all around me and myself." His resignation letter did not mention tickling fights with his interns or towel-snapping with Rahm Emmanuel.

A resignation letter also found itself part of the contentious U.S Senate race in Alaska this year. Amidst allegations that Palin-backed candidate Joe Miller had been fired from the Fairbanks North Star Borough, his campaign manager allowed reporters to read Miller's resignation letter, detailing friction with his boss over allegations of conflict of interest and litigation related to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. The campaign's goal was to show that Miller quit over a long list of grievances. The final straw, according to Miller's letter to his boss: "This morning you told me you had canceled my long-time preapproved leave for my boy's elk hunt in Afognak."

Abroad, a South Korean minister accused of masterminding the illicit surveillance of a political opponent resigned in July, writing: "I am sorry for creating a stir."

In entertainment, Conan O'Brien's January resignation letter to NBC (and addressed as well to "People of Earth") complained: "I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, just like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Sadly, we were never given that chance." Resignation letters should generally be a private communication between an employee and their direct supervisor, said Andrew Rosen, author of The Exit Guide: How to Leave a Job the Right Way, "However it's hard to argue that point in Conan's case."

Sean Menke, the Chief Marketing Officer of Republic Airways released a lengthy resignation letter in January. "I have been preparing to compete in my first marathon," he wrote. "Runners have a lot of time to think, and believe me, runners training for a marathon have even more time. So I've been doing a lot of thinking. I've thought about how proud I am of all that we have achieved over my nearly nine years with Frontier..." The letter went on for another four paragraphs, detailing his accomplishments and delaying efforts to close the cabin doors and get underway.

Of historical interest, Jerald terHorst, President Gerald Ford's first press secretary, died at the age of 87 in April. He wrote one of the more famous resignation letters to come out of the White House, writing on September 8, 1974 that he could not "credibly defend" the pardon of Richard Nixon when others -- from conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War to other Watergate figures -- went unpardoned.

Finally, in 2010 Pfizer CEO Jeffrey Kindler resigned unexpectedly and said he was leaving to "recharge my batteries." Pfizer makes a drug for that, don't they?