Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard speaks to reporters at the Fulton County Courthouse on March 1, 2019. 

NEW DETAILS: Fulton DA reaches settlement in sex discrimination lawsuit

Calling it “tantamount to extortion,” Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard has nonetheless agreed to pay a former Fulton investigator $285,000 as part of a settlement of a 2-year-old sex discrimination lawsuit.

Governor Henderson, who worked in the DA’s Crimes Against Women and Children Task Force, sued Howard and Cynthia Nwokocha, chief of the Criminal Investigations Division, in U.S. District Court after he was passed over for a senior position as human trafficking investigator. According to Henderson’s lawsuit, Nwokocha told him the job should be filled by a woman because “some jobs are not for certain people.”

“Howard condoned and ratified Nwokocha’s policy of only hiring women for the said position, as evidenced by the fact that Howard had to confirm every woman that held the position,” the suit alleges.

The settlement was reached following court-ordered mediation.

“I think it stinks,” Howard told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “My office did not discriminate against Henderson or anyone else. It pains me to believe any money is provided to a person who stated he only wanted the job as a stepping stone to another unit in our office.”

Atlanta attorney Mario Williams, who represented Henderson, said he was surprised by the DA’s comments.

“If Paul Howard believes this was extortion, my client invites him to agree to release the audio recordings that were in direct evidence in this case,” said Williams, who declined to elaborate on what exactly is on those tapes. “Then we’ll let the public decide if it was extortion or not.”

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In his suit, Henderson accused the defendants of attempting to conceal their “sex-based decision-making” by reopening the position after he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Still, “the same, less-qualified woman who got the position before Henderson’s EEOC charge is the same less-qualified woman who remained in the position after the attempted cover up,” the lawsuit contends.

The 23-year law enforcement veteran went on to accuse his former bosses of retaliating against him for filing the EEOC claim. They modified the minimum qualifications for a senior investigator position to include a college degree, the suit states, which Henderson does not have.

Fulton County Attorney Patrise Perkins-Hooker said the settlement should not be interpreted as an admission of wrongdoing.

“From time to time, the County Attorney’s Office recommends the settlement of litigation matters as a way of saving the taxpayers money for the cost incurred with litigation of this type,” Perkins-Hooker said.

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