Mayor’s arrest continues tradition of turmoil in South Fulton

City of South Fulton mayor Khalid Kamau was arrested, but few details are available on the incident, officials said. (City of South Fulton)

Credit: City of South Fulton

Credit: City of South Fulton

City of South Fulton mayor Khalid Kamau was arrested, but few details are available on the incident, officials said. (City of South Fulton)

South Fulton says it’s business as usual following the weekend arrest of Mayor Khalid Kamau, even as more details emerge on his interaction that led to charges of first-degree burglary and criminal trespass.

The arrest affidavits by a South Fulton police officer show discrepancies between Kamau’s account and that of the property owner.

Kamau is accused of entering a lake house in the 6000 block of Cascade Palmetto Highway, about 12 miles southwest of his own home. According to the affidavits, the property owner said he received a phone notification shortly before 7 a.m. Saturday that “some unknown subject was walking onto his property.”

The owner lives in another house on the same plot of land, so he dressed quickly and drove to the lake house — which he uses for furniture storage — watching video of a person later identified as Kamau walking up the driveway and into the house, the affidavit says.

The owner said he called 911 and waited outside, and that Kamau emerged about five minutes later. The owner said he yelled “Stay put!” twice, but Kamau continued walking toward him and said “I don’t have to listen to you, and you can’t give me orders.”

The owner then “placed his firearm down by his side,” and using an expletive, Kamau said: “Do you know who ... I am? I’m the mayor and I’ll wait for my police force to get here and see what happens then,” according to the affidavits.

Kamau’s version of the story differed in key ways.

The mayor told police that as he walked outside, the property owner swore at him and said: “No, ... you stay right there.” As Kamau tried to introduce himself, the property owner cocked his gun, saying “If you take another step I’m going to shoot you,” Kamau said in the affidavits.

Kamau said he then told the owner he was the mayor and thought the house was abandoned, the affidavits say. The mayor told police he was taking his dog to the park when he decided to stop and look at the lake house, describing it as his “dream home” and that he wants to buy it.

“He stated he was aware he was Criminal Trespassing onto (the owner’s) property at the time of the incident,” the affidavits say.

Kamau was booked into Fulton County Jail and released Saturday evening after posting bond.

South Fulton Mayor Khalid Kamau arrested on burglary and criminal trespass charges.

Credit: provided

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Credit: provided

The mayor did not respond to interview requests Monday. But on Sunday, he posted on Facebook: “Hey y’all I’m good. I’m free. God is still using me. Stay tuned.” He followed that message with a Biblical quote: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Kamau received more than 100 comments to the post, both supporting and denouncing him.

Also on Sunday, the city posted a brief statement on social media.

“The City of South Fulton remains dedicated to serving its residents by providing a safe and prosperous community for all, even amidst recent allegations involving Mayor Khalid Kamau,” the statement says. “We understand the concerns raised and want to assure our citizens that the city’s operations and commitment to transparent government are unwavering.

“The mayor has returned home, and we anticipate his return to service for the city. We kindly request that you keep the mayor, council, and the entire city in your thoughts and prayers.”

South Fulton Councilwoman Natasha Williams speaks Tuesday against allegations of a hostile work environment made by City Manager Tammi Saddler Jones. Councilwoman Helen Willis stands next to Williams. Members of the city firefighters' union stand behind them in yellow T-shirts.

Credit: Jim Gaines

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Credit: Jim Gaines

Councilwoman Natasha Williams-Brown was the only South Fulton elected official who responded to a request for comment Monday.

“The city is open for normal business, everything is functioning as it normally would, and there have been no disruptions to the regular order of business,” she said.

A lawsuit that she and four other South Fulton council members filed in March, seeking Kamau’s removal from office for recording closed-door executive sessions for his “personal benefit,” is ongoing, she said. But there is no other legal action underway or pending regarding the mayor, council or city executive staff, according to Williams-Brown.

City council is scheduled to meet Tuesday, but Williams-Brown said she doesn’t expect the mayor’s arrest will be a topic of discussion.

“We will continue to move forward with doing the work that the people elected us to do,” she said.

South Fulton is Fulton County’s newest city, incorporating in 2017. Mayor Khalid is described on the city’s website as a “community activist and Southern, Black, Christian Socialist,” and the first Black Lives Matter organizer elected to public office. He was voted on to council in 2017 and elected mayor in 2021.

South Fulton is governed by a seven-member council plus the mayor. It employs about 500, according to the city website. The city’s population of about 110,000 puts it on a par with Sandy Springs, making it the second or third most populous city of 15 in Fulton County.

City of South Fulton PD employees file federal discrimination lawsuit against chief, city

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On May 2 South Fulton was dubbed a “City of Civility” by the Georgia Municipal Association. That designation requires city councils to adopt a “civility resolution” and pledge to behave civilly with each other and the public. South Fulton’s passed the resolution in February.

The city has seethed with acrimony between mayor, council members and top staff. Incidents since Kamau took office include:

February 2022: Mayor Kamau vetoed recruitment and retention bonuses for city police. After being criticized by the council, he responded that he supported bonuses for police but wanted to offer incentives for all city employees.

March 2022: City council disabled the live chat on its meeting broadcasts, saying it allowed people to “make disparaging comments and purposefully post inaccurate information, while remaining anonymous and free from accountability.”

May 2022: The council asked the Fulton County District Attorney to investigate charges made by a “former council member” on a city-issued credit card, followed in June 2022 with a request for the Fulton DA to investigate the mayor’s credit card transactions.

July 2022: Council members reacted to Kamau’s “whistleblower” remarks about alleged police corruption, saying his allegations were already being investigated, that there was no evidence of corruption and that the mayor may have jeopardized another investigation by releasing documents prematurely.

July 2022: Council members unanimously supported a no-confidence vote in Kamau, saying he “besmirch(ed) the good names and reputations of each council member, the chief of police and the city attorney.” He also did not have the ability to remove the city attorney without council approval, council members said.

February 2023: Then-City Manager Tammi Saddler Jones sent a letter to city officials claiming Williams-Brown and District 3 Councilwoman Helen Willis “regularly publicly berated, demeaned and humiliated her,” interfering with her job performance. Williams-Brown and Willis held a news conference to deny most of Saddler Jones’ allegations and make counter-accusations of a social “smear campaign” against them.

March 2023: Saddler Jones resigned; Sharon Subadan now serves as interim city manager. Then five council members — all except Catherine Foster-Rowell and Linda Pritchett — sued to eject Kamau from office. They alleged he secretly recorded executive sessions, then released some of that private information and used some for his “personal benefit.” Kamau said he was blindsided by the lawsuit, despite holding discussions with council members in the preceding days.