- Mark Niesse The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
An assistant to DeKalb County Commissioner Greg Adams is accusing him of sexual harassment by allegedly pursuing a late-night tryst, requesting pictures of her in a bikini and calling himself her “big daddy.”
Ashlee Wright, who is Adams’ district director, wants a $750,000 payment from the county government to settle her claims outside of court, according to a letter from her attorneys.
Wright said she came forward this week because women shouldn’t have to suffer in that kind of work environment. She’s on paid leave while the county investigates her allegations.
“People like him, I feel like they should be brought to the forefront,” Wright said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News. “I’m looking for justice to be served.”
Wright filed a complaint in June with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which will investigate whether harassment occurred.
Adams, who was elected in December to a super district covering 350,000 east DeKalb residents, denied behaving inappropriately.
“I conduct myself professionally everywhere I go. This is not a hostile work environment,” Adams said Thursday. “I’m a stickler for the law. For anyone to think that I would violate the law under unethical behaviors is a farce.”
Wright’s allegations are detailed in the five-page letter from her attorneys to the county government dated June 30.
According to the letter, while they were attending an out-of-town conference, Adams attempted to have a “sexual liaison” with Wright. He allegedly sent a text message to Wright at 3:29 a.m.:
“Good night young lady. I can’t sleep. I may come down to see you. Do you want company,” said the text message, according to the letter.
On another occasion, the letter says Adams asked Wright to send him a picture of her in a bikini.
“I thought you loved me,” says a text message quoted in the letter. “… It’s funny how you let the world see you, but you won’t let me see. That’s cool (emoticon) no love lost.”
In one example, Wright made an audio recording of Adams allegedly using an analogy that compared them to a married couple having a child together. If she quit the county government, that would be like having an abortion, Adams allegedly said.
Adams, presiding bishop at Restoration in Christ International Ministries near Lithonia, declined to comment on specific accusations against him, saying he doesn’t want to disrupt ongoing investigations.
“I make my work environment very comfortable for everyone that works with me. I like to make them laugh and make them feel good about themselves,” he said. “My job is not to come here and find a date. My job is to come here and serve my constituents.”
Adams’ wife of 32 years, Jacqueline, said she’s standing by him and doesn’t believe the allegations.
“Anybody that knows him, they would know that what is being said is a lie,” she said during an interview at her husband’s side. “People have their underlying agendas.”
Wright, who said she wants to eventually run for Atlanta City Council, said she got fed up with Adams’ comments since she started working for him in January.
“I was angry,” Wright said. “I’ve been dealing with this since I was younger. I’ve had pastors make inappropriate comments to me all the way up. In school, I had teachers make comments to me all the way up. Then I have to deal with this as an adult in the workplace. I just got tired of it.”
Her attorney, Robert James, said Adams’ comments are unacceptable.
“To call it inappropriate is an understatement,” said James, the county’s former district attorney. “No woman should have to be subjected to that type of behavior and that type of environment in the workplace.”
EEOC investigations take an average of six to nine months after cases are referred to investigators, according to the federal agency. If Wright’s allegations aren’t settled by the time that investigation is completed, she could file a lawsuit.