The investigation of a now-former South Fulton Police lieutenant accused of drinking on the job and using racial slurs has led two whistleblowers to file federal discrimination complaints against the department and city.
The attorney for former homicide detective Joseph King and former human relations director Tanesha Graham says it’s the first step towards a federal lawsuit against the city and police department. The complaint describes both as a hostile workplace that use retaliatory tactics.
Attorney Artur Davis, who co-represents King and Graham, said the two became victims of intimidation and retaliation by city officials over the last year when they tried to report on the on-duty actions of former Lt. Shannon McKesey.
“Rather than doing the right thing and conducting an investigation, the first instinct of the police department was to cover-up,” Davis said. “Both Mr. King and Ms. Graham are very brave whistleblowers.”
South Fulton officials did not reply to phone calls and an email message from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
King resigned in June after working nearly four years with South Fulton Police and worked under McKesey, who was head of the Criminal Investigations Division’s narcotics task force.
Channel 2 Action News reported in September that Smyrna Police Internal Affairs found numerous complaints of a hostile workplace created by McKesey to be true, in addition to labor act violations and violations of city and police policy.
McKesey resigned during the summer when Smyrna Police completed the independent investigation for South Fulton.
In October 2021, when King and Graham were still working for the city, King was the first of a dozen within the police department to report to human resources that McKesey frequently used the N-word and would consumed alcohol on the job, ask undercover officers she supervised to purchase alcohol, and tamper with money from drug investigations, according to their federal complaints.
King and Graham, who are both Black, filed EEOC charges of discrimination against South Fulton on Monday through Davis and fellow attorney Arnold Lizana. Their statements accuse Police Chief Keith Meadows of using intimidation to stop any disclosures or investigation of McKesey’s behavior while on-duty and taking steps to have King and Graham fired.
Graham says in her statement that Meadows was considered a mentor to McKesey and he tried to derail the HR director’s investigation of the lieutenant. She said the police chief sent her angry and intimidating emails demanding the names of officers who reported McKesey to human resources and evoked hostility during a meeting in which she was recommending an outside organization conduct an independent investigation.
In her preliminary investigation, Graham had already recommended McKesey be demoted and undergo training on policies against bullying and harassment, the EEOC statement reads.
Graham said that due to this, she came under investigation by the city manager for a separate case of bullying. Graham said that investigation was determined to be unfounded but she believes it was an attempt to have her fired.
She resigned Aug. 26.
King says in his statement that after reporting his experiences working with McKesey to human relations and later Smyrna Police, his South Fulton police department claimed he submitted a fake COVID vaccination card and launched a new investigation to get him fired.
King said he was able to confirm his vaccination status through the Georgia Department of Public Health.
King’s EEOC statement says he was South Fulton Detective of the Year 2020 and Fulton County Detective of the Year 2022.
He now works as an investigator with the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. He says Meadows and others under the chief’s command have tried to get him fired from his new job by calling the DA’s office to make disparaging remarks about his time in South Fulton.
“We believe there has been a pervasive effort to discredit these two individuals and malign their reputation and that has a cost,” Davis said. “It has taken a toll on both of these individuals.”
Davis said he expects the EEOC investigation to take about a year or longer but he and Lizana plan to take action sooner and seek a legal right to sue South Fulton in federal court.
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