Fulton on hook for commissioner’s sexual harassment case

(UPDATING MUG SHOT) July 14, 2021 Atlanta - Commissioner Natalie Hall during a commissioner meeting at the Fulton County government building in Atlanta on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)



(UPDATING MUG SHOT) July 14, 2021 Atlanta - Commissioner Natalie Hall during a commissioner meeting at the Fulton County government building in Atlanta on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Fulton County taxpayers will pay $902,487 to compensate for Commissioner Natalie Hall’s sexual harassment of her former chief of staff, Calvin Brock.

That was the ruling by Judge Jason Patil, who presided over the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission hearing in August.

“Hall tried to force Brock to remain in an exclusive sexual relationship with her, stalked him for months, and ultimately fired him,” the judge wrote.

That amounted to sexual discrimination. However, Brock did not prove his claim that Hall retaliated against his subsequent legal complaint, Patil said.

As Hall is an elected official and Brock was a county employee, that makes Fulton County liable for damages, according to the ruling. The county is also required to give Hall “training in the duties and responsibilities of a supervisor,” and post notice that the county discriminated against an employee.

County commissioners voted 5-1 Wednesday to comply with the verdict and not appeal Patil’s decision. Commissioner Marvin Arrington Jr. cast the only dissenting vote ,and Hall did not participate.

Brock and Hall disagreed over whether their year-long affair was entirely consensual on his part, and whether he quit or was fired in September 2020.

Patil did not find Hall’s version of events remotely credible, agreeing with Brock’s account on virtually every point.

“Even if the relationship began mutually, it did not remain consensual for long because Hall initiated a dizzying array of deceptions designed to monitor and control his interaction with other women,” the judge wrote.

Key in Patil’s decision were three tracking devices Brock discovered in his vehicles. The judge noted that Hall used her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 150 times — whenever she was asked about the devices.

Taking the Fifth in a civil case “does not forbid adverse inferences against parties,” Patil wrote. Hall was informed of that risk the first time she did so.

Patil ruled that Brock is entitled to about $460,000 and interest in back pay, plus $143,392 in pay for “the duration of Hall’s current term as commissioner” through the end of the year.

Brock had asked for three years of future pay. He also sought $300,000 in compensatory damages, but Patil awarded him $65,000.

Brock should also receive about $184,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs, the ruling says.

Fulton Commission Chair Robb Pitts said he thinks recouping the money from Hall is “probably not on the table.”

Neither Hall nor Brock’s attorneys responded to requests for comment.

Attorney Gabe Banks, who represented Hall in her private capacity, deferred questions to the Fulton County Attorney’s Office, which represented her as a commissioner. The county declined comment.

As outlined in testimony and Patil’s 68-page ruling:

Brock moved to Atlanta in February 2018 following his retirement as a police officer in New Jersey, hoping to start a business. In May of that year he was living in his mother’s basement when he met Hall in a furniture store. She hired him as a community relations manager on her four-person staff, making $60,000.

When her chief of staff DaVena Jordan left a few months later, Hall made Brock her chief administrative officer (or chief of staff) at a rate of $105,000 a year. Seven months later, she gave him a $20,000 raise, and wanted to pay him another $25,000. Ultimately he was making $139,363, counting the value of all benefits.

They first had sex in early 2019, at Brock’s apartment. That continued sporadically through summer 2020, usually at each other’s homes, and they kept their relationship secret.

Brock said — and Patil agreed — that Hall became jealous of Brock dating other women, and in March 2020 began planting tracking devices in his vehicles.

Another woman dating Brock filed a whistleblower complaint about his relationship with Hall, which went to Fulton County Auditor Anthony Nicks, who informed Hall and two commissioners on the county’s audit committee.

“The commissioners took no action, nor did they direct Nicks to take any further action,” Patil wrote.

Hall told Nicks the complaint was probably filed by a political opponent.

Brock found two tracking devices in June and August 2020. Confronted, Hall concocted a bizarre story that she found them in Brock’s car, took them out, then put them back at the direction of a supposed retired Atlanta police officer named “Arlanda.”

Brock found the third tracking device on Aug. 31, 2020, and used it to see if Hall was still listening in. Two days later Hall fired him by text.

Hall maintained that Brock quit, but Brock denied it and was backed up by the county’s chief HR officer, Kenneth Hermon. Hall then tried to obscure her involvement in Brock’s firing. She claimed Brock was let go due to an office reorganization, which Patil dismissed as “mere pretense.”

Brock filed an EEOC discrimination charge on Feb. 12, 2021.

Fulton County commissioners voted 5-0 on Sept. 6 to censure Hall. She and Commissioner Marvin Arrington Jr. did not vote.