Judges to rule on Hill demotions

By Justin Boron

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill will face two layers of the ever-thickening stack of lawsuits piling up against him this week as the conflict surrounding his first-day firings enters the slow and potentially costly legal phase.

Hill has been encircled in a broad spectrum of litigation ranging from Equal Employment Opportunity complaints to federal lawsuits, which could draw damages as high as $1 million per person for age, gender, and race discrimination, said Harlan Miller, the lawyer for 31 current and former disgruntled sheriff employees.

Today in U.S. District Court, Hill's county-appointed lawyers will defend him against a request for a temporary restraining order intended to stunt his reorganization of the Sheriff's Office.

The twists and turns of litigation also have placed the county in the awkward position of providing defense for Hill despite the fact it has opposed his actions.

Because Hill is an employee of the county government, the disgruntled employees are essentially suing the county, so the county must afford him defense, said County Attorney Don Comer.

Don Foster of Jonesboro will defend him in the federal courts but could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Hill said he believes Foster is an excellent lawyer. But he also said he has reservations about being defended by an attorney retained by the county government.

Miller said he filed the request for the injunction to alleviate the retaliatory and dangerous conditions under which his clients are working.

Hill described the work environment as productive, saying he has accomplished more than the previous sheriff's administration in one month.

Hill insists the lawsuits are frivolous and are generated by an attempt to intimidate him from making change.

In the county Superior Court Thursday, Ben Miller, a senior retired judge, will rule on the contempt of court action filed by Miller.

Miller claims Hill violated a judge's order when he demoted 26 sheriff employees to correction officers after reinstating them. Some of the deputies were supervisors in the jail before being fired.

Hill dismissed 27 employees on his first day in office as part of a reorganization plan and one of those planned to quit anyway and didn't come back. He rehired the 26 after a judge's order and after county officials said he was in violation of the county's civil service system.

Attorneys for Hill and for the county have agreed to pursue a judgment in the matter but little progress has been made because neither side has filed arguments with a judge.