Former records clerk alleges sexual harassment by Fulton DA

Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

A former Fulton County records supervisor and paralegal claims in a recently filed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint that District Attorney Paul Howard fired her after she broke off their consensual relationship.

Cathy Carter says in her complaint that Howard engaged in “unprofessional, unethical and unlawful conduct by sexually harassing her (and) engaging in sex acts with her.” She worked for the DA’s office for nearly 15 years before her termination on June 7, 2019, according to personnel records.

Earlier on the day she was fired, Carter was arrested by Riverdale police on charges of assault with a handgun, records show. According to a Riverdale Police Department report, a man told officers Carter pointed a gun at him, saying he owed her money. Carter disputed the account, saying she was the one who contacted law enforcement. The charge was later reduced to simple battery and has yet to be adjudicated, records show.

Carter’s arrest prompted her dismissal, said Anita Wallace Thomas, Howard’s attorney.

“Ms. Carter and her counsel are well aware that she was terminated for legitimate, non- discriminatory reasons,” Thomas said.

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Carter says she and Howard began a consensual relationship in 2004.

She provided The Atlanta Journal-Constitution with a 21-minute audio recording, taped in August 2018, during which she and a man she says is Howard engage in sexually charged, flirtatious banter and plan assignations for when her boyfriend wouldn’t be around.

Howard, through his attorney, declined to comment on the recording.

“Now that it is clear that counsel for Ms. Carter intends to pursue legal action against Mr. Howard, it would be inappropriate to make further comment regarding her allegations at this time,” Thomas said.

Georgia is a one-party consent state regarding recordings, meaning it is legal for people to record their phone calls even if others on the line aren’t aware.

Carter, 58, is single. Howard, 68, is married. Carter says in her complaint that Howard “unethically and unlawfully pressured (her) into having sex in the District Attorney’s Office itself, amongst other places.”

Carter said Howard did favors for her, looking the other way when she arrived late for work or took a long lunch, during their relationship. After she ended things, she said, she was disciplined regularly, stripped of responsibilities, placed on probation and eventually fired.

Mario Williams, Carter’s attorney, says his client was fired because she ended the relationship, not because she was arrested.

“There was no investigation and not even a statement taken from me by Mr. Howard or anyone,” Carter said. “I simply received a box on my door step with belongings.”

The EEOC will vet the complaint and must approve any legal action Carter might pursue. The agency does not comment on cases but has assigned a case number to Carter’s complaint, indicating an investigation is underway.

Carter is the second past or present employee to file EEOC complaints accusing Howard of sexual harassment in the last three months. Former human resources director Tisa Grimes said in a complaint filed in December that she endured months of inappropriate comments and unwelcome physical contact from Howard. She said in her complaint that she was demoted and reassigned to another county agency in retaliation when she resisted his advances.

Thomas has said those accusations are without merit.

In February, former deputy chief of staff Jasmine Younge filed a federal lawsuit against Howard, claiming she suffered discrimination after she announced her pregnancy. Younge’s lawsuit does not allege sexual harassment.

“As the courts frown upon public statements from litigants in civil matters, upon instruction of the county attorney, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office will have no comment in this case,” Howard said in a statement at the time.