Hill challenging county police on candidates

By Ed Brock

Fairness is all Georgia State Rep. Victor Hill, D-Riverdale, says he's asking for.

At today's Clayton County Commission meeting, Hill, who is also a Clayton County police detective, will address the commission on their plans to require county employees who are running for political office to take unpaid leave during the race. Hill is running against current Clayton County Sheriff Stanley Tuggle in next year's election.

"Nothing will stop me from running," Hill said, regardless of what the commission decides today.

Also on today's agenda will be a public hearing and consideration of a request by Newco Ventures regarding rezoning the company's 281 acres of land in northern Clayton County for use as a construction and demolition landfill.

Hill said he plans to cite several other examples of county employees and former employees who ran for political office without resigning their positions as is currently required.

"If you're going to open the window for others to run one last time, they need to do for them what they did for the other 11 (employees and former employees who ran for other positions)," Hill said.

But most of the people cited by Hill are not full-time employees or aren't covered under Civil Service classification, Commission Chairman Crandle Bray said.

Hill just wants to serve as a state representative and come back to Clayton County to run for sheriff and "you can't do that on taxpayer's expense," Bray said, adding that he supports requiring the unpaid leave for political candidate employees.

"If I was campaigning on duty, then it would be at taxpayer expense," Hill said.

Tuggle said the decision was up to the county.

"It doesn't matter to me if they have a rule or don't have a rule," Tuggle said. "But if they have a rule they have to enforce it."

Regarding the Newco request, the commission initially denied it in April. The company appealed the decision to Clayton County Superior Court, saying the county violated the company's constitutional rights by not allowing them the best use of the land. The court remanded the case back to the county in its ruling, ordering that the commission reconsider the rezoning decision, according to county attorney Jack Hancock.

Groups that oppose the re-zoning, such as the Tri-County Community Association, Inc. and the Clayton County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People plan to attend today's meeting. They had requested that a public hearing required by the court decision be held at night so more people could come, but Bray said the hearing will be heard this morning.

The commission can choose to hold another hearing and they may not make a decision on the case, Bray said. There is a question over the constitutionality of 14 acres in the middle of the tract that is zoned residential.

"That's the issue we have to wrestle with first," Bray said.

TRICCA and the NAACP say the landfill is an environmental threat to schools and houses in the area and NAACP President Dexter Matthews said they don't believe Newco's statement that the landfill won't stink.

"It sounds good but it's too hard to believe," Matthews said.

But David Flint, a Newco representative, maintains that the landfill n which will only allow construction and demolition debris and inert material, such as tree stumps and branches n would be a better neighbor than the quarry currently operated on the land. The landfill could be phased in over time as the quarry is mined for fill dirt for the Hartsfield fifth runway project, Flint said previously.

A quarry is a much more intense operation than a landfill, Flint explained, because of the blasting and rock crushing that take place there. In addition, Flint speculated that the county could make as much as $15 to $20 million in user fees collected by those dumping materials at the landfill.

"This would be a good use for the property, and there is no other practicable use for this land," Flint said.

Newco is an Atlanta-based firm providing fill dirt and rock for a fifth runway at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport.

The company hopes to eventually put the landfill on the site of a quarry between Lee's Mill and Flat Shoals roads now being used for fill material as part of the runway project.

Party primaries will be held July 20, 2004, with the general election scheduled for Nov. 2, 2004.