By Ed Brock
Georgia State Rep. Victor Hill, D-College Park, on Wednesday called for a grand jury investigation into what he says are reprisals against him and other politically involved police officers by Clayton County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray.
Bray countered that Hill is a "misguided missile."
He said the accusations are not true and are an attempt by Hill, a Clayton County police officer and candidate for sheriff, to get publicity.
"It's ludicrous, just like he is," Bray said.
Hill announced his intention to seek the investigation Wednesday morning shortly after the county's Civil Service Board recommended that Police Chief Darrell Partain grant Hill's requested 40-day unpaid leave of absence. Hill had requested the leave last week for the upcoming House session that begins in January. Partain denied the request, offering instead to allow Hill to serve as a patrol officer on the night shift.
Partain said he made the decision because when he granted Hill a similar leave this year it placed an unfair burden on the other detectives and he wants to be able to move someone else into the position to handle the caseload. Hill said the move was an act of retaliation by Bray.
"It's no secret that my boss' boss is not happy with me running for sheriff, he's not happy with the way I voted when I was in the General Assembly," Hill told the board.
Previously, Hill said that in early January Bray had urged him to vote for Gov. Sonny Perdue's choice for Speaker, Rep. Larry Walker, D-Perry, and when Hill refused, Bray became upset.
Hill made the same accusations against Bray in a letter to Clayton County District Attorney Bob Keller, saying that since that time he has twice been skipped for promotion. He also alleges in the letter that at least two other police officers were transferred or demoted after opposing Bray or running for sheriff.
Keller said he had no comment on Hill's request, but Bray said he welcomed a grand jury investigation.
"I'd love to see that," Bray said. "He needs to spend his time being the policeman we pay him to be."
That sentiment was reflected in the arguments presented by the police department's legal advisor Kenneth Green during Wednesday's hearing.
"We're all proud of Victor Hill, but the bottom line is his serving in the state House is a second job," Green said.
Ed Huie was the one member of the Civil Service Board who voted against granting Hill a leave of absence.
"It sounds to me like the two jobs are completely incompatible," Huie said.
Hill told the board that, since being elected to the House, he has done little investigation for the department and primarily makes "courtesy calls" to crime victims. He also said he would not be able to serve the people well if he is too tired from working all night as a patrolman and all day in the General Assembly.
Citing the letter in which Partain granted the previous leave of absence, board member David H. Johnson made the motion to recommend granting the latest leave of absence. Partain is not bound to abide by the recommendation and shortly after the hearing he said he wants a better explanation of the board's decision before deciding what to do.