OPINION: Fulton pol wastes $902K and is untouchable. Except from voters

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)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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)

This sordid affair in Fulton County has reinforced some truisms.

First, it’s never a good idea to have sex with your boss. Second, it’s even worse for bosses to intimately relate with employees. And it’s more appalling if it’s on the public dime.

Throw in some tracking devices, a little stalking and a coverup and, well, you have an episode that’s very Fulton.

I’m talking about Fulton Commissioner Natalie Hall, who cost the county $902,000 after a judge ruled she had an affair with an employee and then fired him after he said he needed some space.

Hall’s fellow commissioners recently threw up their hands and voted to pay Calvin Brock, Hall’s former chief of staff, to go away. Brock filed an EEOC complaint against Hall alleging sexual discrimination in the workplace.

The settlement followed a very lop-sided decision by a federal administrative judge in Brock’s favor, awarding him back pay, “front pay,” attorneys’ fees and compensatory damages.

Appealing the case, and spending even more money, was a losing proposition, Hall’s colleagues tell me.

“It just was not worth the risk,” said Commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman, referring to the judge’s stern decision. “You’re talking about 68 pages. There was no defect in the law (to appeal.) The judge gave ample ammunition as to why he made the decision. If you ask me, he seemed a little upset.”

Judge Jason Patil, who presided over a hearing last summer, concluded: “Brock simply wanted to continue his employment with Fulton County, free from Hall’s sexual intrigues and schemes. Instead, she subjected him to months of stalking that caused him ongoing anxiety and paranoia and damaged his ability to have relationships with women. When she terminated him, it dramatically escalated these harms and eviscerated his income.”

And that’s just a summation. It gets weirder and more outrageous.

Former Fulton County employee Calvin Brock, in an August 2020 photo posted on Facebook by his boss, Commissioner Natalie Hall. She was congratulating him on completing some certification. At the time, Brock had a tracker on his car placed by Hall, court documents show. Days after this photo was taken, he was fired.

Credit: Facebook

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Credit: Facebook

Last year, Aungelique Proctor, a veteran journalist for Fox 5 News, reported that the discrimination hearing sounded like a soap opera. That is, if the Playboy Channel ran that genre.

In May 2018, Brock, a retired New Jersey cop who moved to Atlanta, struck up a conversation with Hall in a furniture store and was hired days later as her community relations manager at a $60,000 salary.

In the ruling, the judge noted Hall expected her staff “to be available to serve her 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Little did he know...

Soon, Hall was flirting with Brock and telling him about her marriage, the judge wrote. She was, at the time, married to former Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall.

Within a year of his hire, and with the two ultimately engaged in an affair, Brock was Hall’s chief of staff and making $125,000.

“Brock,” the judge wrote, “felt that his sexual interactions with Hall were intertwined with his work for her. He felt pressured to accommodate Hall sexually to keep his job.”

She testified the relationship was “romantic,” that he generally initiated the sex and his job was not dependent on his bedroom performance.

Brock testified he told Hall he did not want to have an exclusive relationship. In March 2020, she found out he was seeing another woman. Within days, there was a tracking device with live GPS and audio capabilities in his car. It was the first of three such devices planted.

Testimony shows Hall secretly watched Brock while jogging in Covington, followed him to a hotel, used a disguised phone number to text the other woman who Brock was dating and generally weirded him out.

Brock was fired in September 2020, two days after he found the third tracking device and confronted her. The judge wrote that in an attempt to cover up the firing, Hall tried to make it look like she was reorganizing her office and held a meeting with her remaining staff in a park, afraid Brock was eavesdropping on her.

You just can’t make this up.

Khadijah Abdur-Rahman poses for a photo at a ribbon cutting celebrating the new assembly hall and renovations at the Fulton County government building in Atlanta, Georgia, on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Rebecca Wright

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Credit: Rebecca Wright

Hall did not respond to several calls and texts for comment. For that matter, she has said nothing publicly. The judge noted she pleaded the Fifth more than 150 times, apparently worried her eavesdropping might be a crime.

Hall’s misdoings have done the impossible. She has united commissioners from the right and left, from north Fulton and south. Commissioner Bob Ellis, a Republican, called the saga “unbelievable and disgusting.”

Commissioner Abdur-Rahman, a Democrat, told me, “I’m disappointed with her lack of taking responsibility and for not apologizing to the taxpayers.”

Commissioners last year censured Hall but have complained they cannot otherwise discipline her — like suspending or firing her — because she’s an elected official. Only the voters can fire Hall,

County Chairman Robb Pitts said he has asked the county attorney to see if Fulton can either dock her pay or perhaps withhold some of her budget to claw back some of the settlement. Most commissioners get $600,000-plus a year to run their office.

The judge did order Fulton to provide training of the Government Employee Rights Act to Hall.

Hopefully, she’ll take notes.

But there is a silver lining: This year is an election.

And, yes, Hall’s seat is up.

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