City of South Fulton PD employees file federal EEOC complaints against chief, city

A former South Fulton detective and the city’s human resources director have both filed federal discrimination complaints against their chief of police and the city.

The employees claim that the chief bullied them and retaliated against them after they made formal complaints against a police lieutenant for creating a hostile work environment.

Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernandes talked to the former HR director, Tanesha Graham, who said 12 officers complained about Lt. Shannon McKesey’s behavior to her, saying they couldn’t follow chain of command because the chief of police, Chief Keith Meadows, was protecting her.

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“The retaliatory harassment that our clients were subjected to was uncalled for, it was unprofessional and more important that that, it was illegal,” Attorney Arnold Lizana.

Former South Fulton detective of the year Joseph King and former Human Resources director Tanesha Graham filed federal discrimination complaints against Meadows and the City of South Fulton.

King and Graham said the harassment and retaliation they endured was so intense they felt force to resign.

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“They knew what they were in for, but they stood up and they did the right thing,” Lizana said. “Our intent is to pursue these claims in federal district court and to trail if necessary, and get some justice for Mr. King and Ms. Graham.”

King and Graham said it all starting in October of 2021, when King went to Graham to file a complaint against McKesey. King said she created a hostile work environment within the South Fulton Police Department.

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King said he couldn’t report it to Meadows, because McKesey was the chief’s protege and a close friend of his wife.

Graham launched a human resources investigation.

“She proceeded to investigate the hostile work environment and began to share some the updates on the investigation with the city manager,” Lizana said. “Eventually those updates got back to the chief, and at that point, he tried to intervene and stop the investigation.”

that same month, Graham said more officers started coming forward with the same accusations about the lieutenant. In total, 12 officers filed complaints from October to February.

In December, Graham said Chief Meadows sent her angry and intimidating emails demanding the names of the officers who filed complaints. She refused.

In March of 2022, Graham finished her investigation and recommended that Chief Meadows demote McKesey and have her retrained on the department’s bullying and harassment policies.

Instead, the city manager, brought in the Smyrna Police Department to conduct and independent investigation. Smyrna Police released a report in July substantiating McKesey created a hostile work environment.

“It led to retaliation of our clients, Mr. King and Ms. Graham,” Lizana said.

While City of South Fulton Police were still investigating, the city manager sent a memo to members of city council recapping a conversation she had with Councilwoman Helen Willis. She claims Willis told her to fire Graham, saying Graham was acting inappropriately by investigating a complaint lodged by police officers.

“Willis approached the city manager and told the city manager, ‘If you don’t fire Tanesha, we’re gonna fire you.’ So that couldn’t get more retaliatory,” Lizana said.

Graham filed her own complaint, saying Willis and Meadows retaliated against her for simply doing her job.

The next month, council hired the law firm Hoffer and Webb to investigate Graham’s complain, but the law firm found no evidence to support the Chief or Willis creating a hostile work environment.

Fernandes reached out to Meadows and Willis. They both declined an on-camera interview, but the City of South Fulton sent a statement, reading:

“Councilwoman Willis and Chief Meadows remain confident in the findings of the independent investigation, which did not substantiate the allegations made by Ms. Graham and determined that they had not violated City policy or state laws.”

Fernandes reached out to McKesey several times Monday. She has declined to speak on camera, but has denied all allegations and resigned her position.