Former corrections officer in court

By Justin Boron

Former sheriff's Correction Officer James Randale Wilson was hired by Sheriff Victor Hill to place handcuffs on the inmates held in the Clayton County jail.

Instead, the cuffs jingled around his own ankles this weekend in court, where he appeared for charges of simple battery, disrupting a public school, and loitering on school property.

Hill fired Wilson - who volunteered on the new sheriff's campaign - last Monday before he was charged.

But the circumstances of Wilson's four-day stint with the Sheriff's Office exemplify the disruption and confusion reverberating from Hill's contentious dismissal of 27 sheriff's employees Jan. 3, county and sheriff officials said.

In the wake of his reorganization, Hill admits no background check was conducted before Wilson started work.

The county personnel department also had no knowledge of the hire, said Theodis Locke, the assistant director of personnel.

Historically, the hiring procedure at the Sheriff's Office included a background check, a polygraph test, and an interview before an applicant was hired and put on the job, he said.

Former Sheriff Stanley Tuggle also said during his tenure, sheriff staff members were never put on duty before a background check had been completed.

Lack of cooperation between Hill and the county commission have led to a divergence from the county's personnel policies, blurring the lines of employment in the Sheriff's Office, County Commissioner Wole Ralph said.

"Because there is so much friction... the process itself is breaking down," he said.

Hill also said the frenetic transition two weeks ago caused him to stray from the due diligence of hiring staff members.

He said adherence to the policy on new hires would be restored in the future.

Once Wilson's history was probed and sheriff's officials found allegations of harassment in 1997 last Monday, he was dismissed, Hill said.

Wilson subsequently went to North Clayton High School, where he had worked as a security guard, and allegedly interacted inappropriately with an 18-year-old female, said Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner.

The former corrections officer's bond was set at a total of $6,000 for the three charges. Wilson said he didn't think he would be able to post the bond, likely rendering him to the county jail until his preliminary hearing Jan. 31.

But the ambiguity surrounding sheriff's employees extends beyond Wilson.

Sheriff staff members have been seen responding to instructions from supervisors, who the staff members say either do not have a clear position in the department, or have a position of which they have not been informed.

Others who have been removed from their positions under Tuggle have said their new position is indiscernible.

Hill acknowledges vague working conditions and said they, too, stem from the distraction of intense media scrutiny and county intervention in the sheriff's business.

Possible excess in jail

Amid the apparent confusion over personnel in the Sheriff's Office, Hill has accused his predecessor of mismanagement, citing overstock in the county jail warehouse.

He said over one million sheets, 106 basketballs, 27 new televisions, and 10,000 unused inmate uniforms added up to mismanagement.

"It's like sitting on a crime scene, and we don't know exactly what we've got," he said. "It looks very, very suspicious."

Tuggle said he would await a GBI investigation to comment and did not want to take away attention from sheriff's employees by trading blows with Hill in the media.

Hill said the information came from his supervisor of the budget. But he said he could not give exact numbers until the GBI investigated.

He also said his staff is searching for invoices to substantiate the numbers, but feared they may have been destroyed before he came into office. He conceded he had not ascertained what exactly had been destroyed.