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Employees' attorney raises contempt question

By Justin Boron

The attorney for 23 of the 27 employees dismissed by Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill said he would likely go before a judge today asking for the sheriff to be held in contempt of court.

Harlan Miller said Hill has not restored the "status quo" stipulated by Clayton County Chief Superior Court Judge Stephen Boswell, who ordered the employees be re-hired. The status quo would mean returning them to work, Miller said.

Hill and his attorney, Evan Kaine, said they were not in contempt of court and had consulted Boswell before placing the fired employees on administrative leave.

"We have followed the letter of the law in the court order," Kaine said. "We are not in contempt of court. If that action is brought, we will oppose it accordingly."

But County Attorney Don Comer said administrative leave may not even exist under the circumstances in which Hill has placed the employees on it.

The legal wrangling has clenched down on the dispute between Hill and the county government after he fired 27 employees Monday and placed armed observers on the roof of the Harold R. Banke Justice Center as they were escorted off the property.

Those employees were still not back on the job Thursday but did pick up their checks at the County Administration building.

The scene was poignant as some of the sheriff's officers told for the first time what was at stake if a judge eventually decides Hill has the right to fire them.

"I don't want to go into too many details about her medical, but she has a brain tumor," said Lt. Perry Joiner of his 15-year old daughter.

Another one of the high-ranking people Hill dismissed also said his 11-year old daughter had a brain tumor.

"She functions pretty regularly, we just try to control the amount of seizures she's having," said Maj. Michael Maddox.

Hill reacted with sympathy and said he wasn't aware of the employees' circumstances.

"When you get that information, you can't help but to be touched," he said. "I'm going to find a way to do something."

But Hill also said he wanted to take the emotion out of the broader situation surrounding the litigation created by his actions.

"Once we take the emotion out of it and hear the facts of the case, people are going to see why I made that decision," he said.

Hill admits he has taken a beating publicly for the actions.

But he said he doesn't regret any of the actions he has taken so far.