By Justin Boron
An emergency temporary restraining order signed by a judge Tuesday night halted a county commission proposal to transfer the Sheriff Office's narcotics unit to the county Police Department on the official election date of incoming Sheriff-elect Victor Hill. The move comes less than two months before Hill takes power as the county's first black sheriff.
Amid the hullabaloo of Election Day, the county commission was scheduled to act on a measure that would have moved the Drug Enforcement Task Force and the Crime Scene Investigations unit to county police supervision.
An outraged Hill said the proposed transfer was a vindictive move aimed at hampering his official victory.
If Sheriff Stanley Tuggle had won the race, Hill said the issue would not even be a topic of discussion.
"Their decision is not just vindictive, it's irresponsible," he said.
The transfer comes on the heels of Clarence Cox's resignation from director of the Drug Enforcement Task Force.
Cox stepped down after an ongoing audit of the task force found "misdirected funds," Police Chief Darrell Partain has said.
Hill said a police-run crime scene investigations unit would not be able to cross jurisdictional lines like deputized sheriff officers.
Unable to enter municipalities, he said the unit would be far more restrained than if under the Sheriff's Office.
County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray said neither race nor Hill's incoming status played a factor in the decision to put the item on the agenda.
Hill said the issue has only come up after two African-Americans n he and District Attorney-elect Jewell Scott n were elected to office.
Bray and the commissioners deleted the item from the agenda just moments before the meeting was called to order, when Hill provided the court order.
Undaunted by the last-minute legal blocking, Bray said he was happy to take the matter to court.
"I think it will be great to have a hearing before the judge," he said. "The lawyers will sort this out."
The court order stipulates that the Board of Commissioners are "enjoined from voting on any matter relating to the transfer of the personnel and budget of the Clayton County Narcotics Unit and Crime Scene Unit until such time as a neutral and detached judge may determine the issue raised in (Hill's) complaint."
Clayton County Superior Court Judge Albert Collier also wrote that a specially appointed judge from outside the county judicial circuit would hear the matter.
Hill's complaint alleges the items that were on the agenda would change 20-year-old powers of the Sheriff Department and would cause him "imminent and irreparable" injury.
The contention is part of a saga between him and the current county administration that Hill says is an overriding attempt at intimidation because Tuggle lost the Sheriff's election.
Hill had threatened the county with litigation almost three months ago when the Board of Commissioners proposed to transfer more than $83,000 in personnel funds from the Sheriff's Office to the code enforcement section of the community development department.
The commission decided to take the proposal off the agenda until Hill came into office, Bray had said.
While the court order held the status quo for Tuesday's meeting, a county-requested court hearing, scheduled later this week, "might" be related to the Hill matter, Bray said.
Connecting the hearing with a special-called meeting Monday at 9 a.m., Bray intimated that its purpose would be to conduct county business for a matter that would be "disposed of" after the court hearing this week.
Hill's lawyers speculated that the hearing could be an attempt to squash the court order on a technicality.
"It may be an attempt to use some technical mechanism to throw out the temporary restraining order," said Zenobia Arnold Carter, Hill's attorney.
Staff writer Ed Brock contributed to this story.