ATLANTA, January 6, 2013 ― When Victor Hill was elected as sheriff of Clayton County, Georgia, he appeared to make history. According to the Georgia Sheriff’s Association, it was “the first time in modern history that anyone has ever been elected sheriff in Georgia while under indictment for felony crimes.”
Hill, who faces 32 felony charges including theft and racketeering, was elected as Clayton County sheriff in 2004, but was ousted after one term. Hill’s tenure was controversial from the start after he fired 27 deputies on his first day in office, a move that resulted in lawsuits that were later settled in court.
Hill has since lost his certification as a law enforcement officer, meaning he can’t arrest anyone personally. His legal problems grew in February when he was indicted on a spate of corruption charges stemming from his time in office.
However, it didn’t affect his standing with voters: He defeated former Sheriff Kem Kimbrough, the man who ousted Hill four years earlier, in a Democratic primary last year and ran unopposed in November’s general election.
Governor Nathan Deal, a Republican, will not suspend Hill, skirting a potential political and legal showdown over the matter.
Under state law, the governor is required to “appoint a three-member panel to investigate the indictment of a public official,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.
“Deal has concluded that the law outlining the procedures for the suspension of public officials under indictment applies only to officials indicted while holding their elected office,” the statement went on. “The law defines ‘public official’ as ‘any elected county officer.’”
Deal’s office contends that because Hill was “a private citizen and not an elected county officer” when he was indicted, “state law prohibits the appointment of a suspension panel at this time.”
The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association asked Deal to suspend Hill pending the outcome of his criminal trial. It is the sixth request – involving three different sheriffs – the organization made in the past two years.
“I find it incomprehensible that anyone could think a sheriff being under indictment wouldn’t have an adverse affect on the normal operations of the office,” Sheriff Howard R. Sills, president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, said in a position paper.
“Mr. Hill’s certification as a peace officer is suspended. He has no arrest power. He cannot even participate in the execution of a search warrant,” Sills added. “How can an individual conceivably act as the chief law enforcement officer of an entire community after having been divested of the primal element of the office itself?”
Clayton County is located south of Atlanta.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.