Former state official sexually harassed, used bigoted terms for employees, report say

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News has learned that a senior state official retired this fall amid accusations of sexual harassment and bigotry.

The state Inspector General documented the conduct of Mike Roby, the commissioner of the Department of Veterans Services.

Roby’s own secretary filed the complaint that led to his suspension and retirement.

According to witnesses interviewed by the IG, Roby repeatedly used demeaning names for people and hugged subordinates — almost always women — despite their requests for him to stop.

Witnesses say people were afraid to cross him.

“Here we have a commissioner who is incredibly cruel to his subordinates, with no self-awareness of the level of cruelty,” attorney Joyce Kitchens told Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher.

Roby stepped down in September after being suspended because of a complaint from his own confidential secretary.

Kitchens read the IG’s report on Roby’s behavior. She has extensive legal experience both in the private sector and working with government agencies, including DVS.

“One of the employees referred to it as the 60s, an office with the atmosphere of the 60s. I would say the 50s. There was such a level of bigotry that was displayed without any corrective of action taken for a number of years,” Kitchens said.

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According to the IG’s report, Roby’s secretary “complained that Roby continually hugged and touched (her) and told (her) they may have to stay late at work together without any other staff present.”

She “added that Roby would touch her shoulder and that he would keep his hand on her lower back if they walked together.”

Another witness told investigators he heard Roby refer to a group of Black female employees as the “Kunta Kinte Mafia,” and used stereotypically Hispanic names for the witness such as Rico, Julio, and Latin Lover.

According to the report, Roby regularly defended his behavior by arguing that’s who he is.

“He said, ‘That’s who I am. And, and I gotta be me.’ Doesn’t work for the workplace,” Kitchens said.

Kitchens told Belcher that the IG’s report documents that fear of retaliation under Roby was real.

“He said, ‘I don’t retaliate. When people tell me they don’t like it, I just stop. And I don’t do it again.’ And that was contradicted by almost every witness that witnessed his conduct,” Kitchens said.

Belcher was unable to reach the former commissioner for comment on this story, but IG report said Roby emailed investigators, ‘I am sorry that it came to this, and I never meant for anything like this to ever happen.’”

Gov. Brian Kemp’s office and Inspector General Scott McAfee declined comment.

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