Investigation: Man with criminal history hired by metro commissioner for community engagement role

ATLANTA — A Channel 2 Action News investigation found a man who pleaded guilty to crimes like impersonating a police officer and robbery by force is working for a local county as a community engagement manager.

Fulton County Commissioner Natalie Hall hired Jonathan Harris after he spent time in Central State Prison for breaking probation.

A judge sentenced him to probation and time served for his 2016 crimes of impersonating a police officer and simple battery, both misdemeanors and a felony charge of robbery by force. He also got first-offender status for the robbery charge.

Harris refused to sit down for an interview but gave Channel 2 investigative reporter Sophia Choi a copy of court records sealing his felony case.

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Channel 2 Action News spent weeks sifting through police reports, court records, and several open records requests to uncover his criminal history.

That research also led Choi to one of his victims who asked only to be referred to as Somer.

She told Choi that she helped police catch Harris after he attacked and robbed her.

Somer wants to know why he’s now working for Fulton County Government.

“A felony. You were a fake impersonating a cop. I don’t get it. It’s just … it’s like mind-boggling. How? Why?” Somer said.

Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts told Choi that commissioners can hire who they want for whatever job they want with no salary cap under non-merit pay.

“When a person applies to work for a commissioner, you have to fill out an application and you have to agree to go undergo a background check. That’s it,” Pitts said.


And when red flags show up on the application, Pitts said a commissioner can just ignore them.

Hall declined Choi’s request for an interview saying, “Per the advice of the County Attorney’s office, I am not able to speak about Jonathan Harris’s employment records.”

On his application, Harris noted his misdemeanors, but he was not required to disclose the robbery because of his first-offender status.

William Perry with Georgia Ethics Watchdog said he’s troubled by this hire.

“The fact that she’s using taxpayer dollars to hire somebody with this sort of background for that particular position. You know, I believe in second chances, but not every job should get a second chance. And this is one when you’re working for a Fulton County commissioner, especially in community outreach, there needs to be a higher standard,” Perry said.

Hall hired Harris, who is making $65,000 a year.

Pitts said as a community engagement manager, Harris has access to some of Fulton’s most vulnerable citizens.

“It could be a senior citizens event. It could be a meeting at a school,” Pitts said.

Harris spent about six months in prison. But before he went in, police arrested him for a theft charge which is still on hold.

Since getting out of prison three years ago, Harris stayed clean with no new charges.

Somer still isn’t convinced.

“You’re giving him power that he already thinks he has. Imagine what he can do now that he has the power?” Somer said.