Review: Harassment claims against leading Georgia Dem ‘cannot be substantiated’

James Beverly was elected minority leader of the Georgia House in 2021. The Macon lawmaker is not seeking reelection to the chamber in November. (Hyosub Shin /

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

James Beverly was elected minority leader of the Georgia House in 2021. The Macon lawmaker is not seeking reelection to the chamber in November. (Hyosub Shin /

A review by an outside attorney hired by Georgia House Democrats determined that allegations against Minority Leader James Beverly, including sexual harassment, “cannot be substantiated.”

The report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution centered on allegations that Beverly made inappropriate comments to a female Democratic staffer whose identity wasn’t disclosed. The AJC also obtained a copy of the complaint.

The review comes after weeks of turmoil among Georgia House Democrats over the claims about Beverly, a Macon optometrist who was elected to lead the caucus in 2021 and isn’t seeking another term in the Legislature in November.

Beverly told the AJC the review showed the claims were “false and unwarranted.” The staffer declined to comment, as did other party officials.

The review was conducted by attorney Cheryl Treadwell, who also serves as a Fulton County Magistrate Court judge. She investigated allegations that Beverly made inappropriate comments to the staffer on three occasions over about a year.

One involved an event earlier this year at an Atlanta brewery when the staffer, who was then pregnant, said Beverly “lightly” grabbed her blazer when he arrived. Beverly told investigators he greeted her in that manner because a hug would have required some maneuvering since she was pregnant.

She said Beverly told her during that encounter: “In another life, that baby would have been mine.” She immediately reported the comment to a colleague and described it “expressly as sexual harassment,” according to the review, which wasn’t shared with rank-and-file House Democrats.

Beverly told investigators he didn’t make that specific comment but was “expressing a nostalgic sentiment” that contrasted his status as an empty-nester with the young staffer’s stage in life.

Treadwell wrote that Beverly’s embrace of the staffer was “physically uncomfortable for complainant, it was not sexual in nature.” And she wrote that Beverly’s precise words to the staffer were in dispute.

“However, the single comment, as alleged by complainant, is not sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute sexual harassment,” Treadwell wrote.

Treadwell also reviewed allegations that Beverly asked the staffer about her plans to become pregnant during a hiring interview. As the top Democrat in the House, Beverly has a wide range of responsibilities including influence over certain hiring decisions.

Treadwell said she found “no evidence that any future pregnancy plans” factored into the decision to hire the staffer.

The allegations have been the focus of several lengthy caucus meetings and dominated internal House Democratic discussions in the runup to the May primary.

In May, state Rep. Shea Roberts of Sandy Springs abruptly resigned as the caucus treasurer. She wrote in a resignation letter that her goal is to elect more Democrats in November but she’s “been distracted from that objective by leadership issues that remain unresolved despite my best efforts.” She declined comment on Monday.

In a statement, Beverly said: “The process worked. These false and unwarranted accusations have been fully investigated and found to be without any merit.”