Hill claims politics behind denial of leave

By Ed Brock

Georgia State Rep. Victor Hill, D-College Park, says he is a victim of political reprisals for crossing Clayton County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray.

Hill is also a Clayton County police detective and a candidate for Clayton County sheriff. He says the police department's recent denial of his request for a leave of absence during the Georgia House of Representatives' next session and other actions by the county have come about because he refused to vote the way Bray wanted regarding the Speaker of the House election.

"That's crazy," Bray said in response to Hill's accusation.

Last week Hill requested permission from Clayton County Police Chief Darrell Partain for a 40-day leave of absence to cover the time he would serve in the House's 2004 session.

"He asked me to put in for a leave of absence and when I put it in he denied it," Hill said.

Partain granted the same 40-day leave of absence when Hill served in the 2003 session as a freshman representative. Hill said Partain told him he would consider demoting Hill from detective to patrolman, allowing him to work during the session from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. with a corresponding reduction in pay.

That would violate the department's policy restricting officers with second jobs to work on those jobs only 20 hours a week, Hill said. Partain said he hadn't considered that policy as it applies to Hill's work in the state legislature.

Hill said he was told the denial was due to a shortage of manpower, but he thinks that it is the latest in a series of actions he believes to be politically motivated.

"It has become obvious that the people I work for are going to do everything they can to make it as difficult as possible for me to participate in the political process and to seek the office of sheriff," Hill said.

Hill has filed a grievance with the Clayton County Civil Service Board regarding the denial and a hearing on that grievance is scheduled for Wednesday morning. Partain said he could not discuss some of the details of why he denied Hill's request until after the hearing, but he did say it had nothing to do with politics.

"I have not conferred with Crandle Bray about Victor Hill's hours," Partain said. "This is simply a manpower allocation problem that I have to solve."

Previously Hill protested the county's attempt to change a policy regarding county employees like Hill who run for county political office. The new policy would allow Hill to run but he would have to take an unpaid leave of absence, a move Hill also claimed was politically motivated.

Hill said that in late December of last year and early January this year Bray asked him on several occasions to vote for Gov. Sonny Perdue's choice for Speaker of the House, Rep. Larry Walker, D-Perry. Bray even took him to see the governor to discuss the vote, Hill said.

"When I made it known that I was going to vote independently I got a very negative reaction (from Bray) and the rest is history," Hill said.

Bray said he did introduce Hill to Walker and to the governor before Hill took his seat in the House.

"I never asked him to vote for anybody," Bray said.

Bray also said the commission has made no changes to the policy on county employees running for county office. That policy currently prohibits county employees from seeking or holding county offices. Hill said previously that the rule had not been enforced before when other county employees ran for county offices.

Perdue met with several representatives regarding Walker and had no specific information on a meeting with Hill, said the governor's spokeswoman Loretta Lepore.