Report finds DeKalb Commissioner Adams sexually harassed employee

DeKalb Commissioner Greg Adams violated the county’s sexual harassment policy by telling an assistant he found her “sexy,” requesting photos of her in a bikini and inviting himself to her hotel room at 3 a.m. during a government conference, outside investigators hired by the county have concluded.

Ashlee Wright, who worked as Adams’ district director, is seeking a $750,000 settlement from the county government.

Adams, a pastor and former police officer, told investigators that his intention was not to have sex with Wright, but they found that his comments were inappropriate for the workplace. They recommended that Adams attend sexual harassment training.

Wright’s attorney, Robert James, said she’s seeking much more than training for Adams.

“It’s time for someone with DeKalb County’s government to stand up and make this right,” James said. “It’s very troubling behavior from a public official. … Big corporations and the powers that be would say, ‘That’s just boys being boys.’ That sounds like what I’m hearing now.”

Audio recordings created by Wright, 27, show that Adams told her she was “sexy, beautiful and intelligent” and referred to himself as “big daddy.” In addition, Adams sent text messages to Wright requesting bikini photos and, during an April conference in Savannah, asking to meet her in the middle of the night.

Adams, 54, says his words and messages were taken out of context in Wright’s effort to get rich quick.

He said Wright knew he was joking about the bikini photos, and he was just being complimentary when he said she was sexy. He said he didn’t intend the comment as a come-on.

The investigative report said Adams didn’t remember sending the late-night text message, but he said that could be because of his use of a prescription medication he’s been taking since serving in the military. The medication could cause Adams to do or say things he wouldn’t normally do, he told investigators.

“I never disrespected Ms. Wright or made harassing statements,” Adams said Tuesday. “I have never disrespected a woman, and I never will. It’s just a ploy to get money.”

Adams, who was elected last year to a super district representing the eastern half of DeKalb, hasn’t been charged with a crime.

Adams has been married for 32 years, and his wife has said she believes he didn’t harass Wright.

“I know certainly I didn’t harass her. I didn’t ask for sex. The bikini was a running joke we had,” Adams said. “When the word ‘sexy’ came up, I didn’t think it was inappropriate to say something like that when we’re joking or laughing.”

But the county’s investigators, attorneys for Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, said Adams’ assertion that he was kidding or giving compliments doesn’t absolve him.

“Despite what he refers to as his innocent intentions, however, based on the totality of the circumstances, includes his use of ‘sexy’ and requests for bikini pictures, it is our conclusion that Commissioner Adams’ conduct was in violation of the policy” for sexual harassment, according to the investigative report dated Sept. 20.

The report also cites other examples of questionable behavior, including late night phone calls and a conversation in which Adams told Wright that if she quit the county to run for political office, it would be like “aborting their baby” by ending their work together for the county government.

Bruce Morriss, an attorney for Wright, said the DeKalb Board of Commissioners should vote to settle the case.

“We’re disappointed with the county. We’re disappointed they wish to make no amends to her. They want to send him to counseling only,” Morriss said.

If the case isn’t settled, Wright could file a lawsuit after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finishes its investigation into whether harassment occurred.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Man shot several times in the head in southwest Atlanta
Man shot several times in the head in southwest Atlanta

A man was taken to the hospital after he was shot in the head two to three times, Atlanta police said.  The shooting happened at the intersection of Ridge Avenue and Pryor Street in southwest Atlanta just before 9:30  p.m. Tuesday, Officer Stephanie Brown said.   “The victim has been transported to Grady Memorial Hospital...
Alleged Ghost Face Gangster on parole arrested in stabbing 
Alleged Ghost Face Gangster on parole arrested in stabbing 

A man police believe is connected to the Ghost Face Gangsters was arrested in a racially motivated stabbing, police told the Athens-Banner Herald. Emory Mason Dean, 25, was released Jan. 17 on parole from Ware State Prison in Waycross, the newspaper reported.  He was immediately arrested on charges of aggravated assault related to the beating...
Owner of Atlanta gay bar under fire after controversial posts surface
Owner of Atlanta gay bar under fire after controversial posts surface

Several people are expressing outrage after controversial Facebook posts surfaced on the account of the owner of Burkhart’s Pub.  Palmer Marsh, 70, has owned the gay and drag bar in Atlanta’s Ansley Square for decades. A screenshot that appears to show him using a racial slur about former President Barack Obama has been...
Fulton County residents want equitable transit plan in north and south
Fulton County residents want equitable transit plan in north and south

As much as they were interested in where any proposed Fulton County transit expansions would go, residents also wanted to know what good they would do. Would adding bus rapid transit bring more jobs? Would it help decrease the amount of traffic? And were county leaders thinking through the proposals, to make sure they would be putting transit in places...
DeKalb considers cutting penalties for marijuana possession
DeKalb considers cutting penalties for marijuana possession

DeKalb County wants to join the cities of Atlanta and Clarkston in decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, but a change in state law is needed. Clarkston in 2016 became the first city in Georgia to relax marijuana laws, making possession of less than an ounce of marijuana no longer punishable by jail time. Last year in October...
More Stories