Sheriff backs off injunction

By Justin Boron

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill said Wednesday he will pursue another injunction to divide the equipment and funds held by the narcotics unit between the county police and the sheriff.

Hill's announcement came after he withdrew a request for an injunction protesting the county commission's vote Tuesday to move the Drug Task Force to county police control.

County government officials rejected the idea of equitable distribution.

As a part of Hill's concession, the county said the four narcotics deputies, who pledged their loyalty to Hill's new COBRA drug unit, will be offered the opportunity to stay with the Sheriff's Office.

District Attorney Jewel Scott also withdrew her injunction request. Like Hill, she filed a motion to protest the transfer.

Her employees were given the same opportunity.

"I am comfortable that those investigator positions will be protected and will maintain their jobs, and be paid," Scott said.

Reporters and spectators waited nearly 45 minutes while attorneys for the county and the sheriff came to a resolution behind closed doors, sidestepping the court hearing.

When the parties emerged, Hill told an eager group of print and broadcast reporters his goal was achieved.

"One of the main objectives that I wanted to obtain today is to make sure my (deputies) got paid," he said.

He also suggested County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell's age may be affecting his approach to the dispute.

"We have to be patient with him," Hill said. "A man at his age . . . should sit down and talk to me."

Bell chided the insinuation, saying he was happy to still be alive regardless of his age.

He also accused Hill of using the litigation to garner media attention.

"We've had 19 days of this," Bell said. "I'm of the notion (that Hill's resistance) is to give some fine, upstanding lawyers an opportunity to make money."

He said the county would not negotiate for equitable distribution of narcotics funds.

Legal Wrangling

The Board of Commissioners' vote, which sent the county narcotics unit to police control, has propelled the debate surrounding Hill into a spiral of litigation, which some officials say threatens to impede the regular business of the county.

The legal fabric woven from Hill's sudden dismissal of 27 employees Jan. 3 has become layered with at least two injunctions, a federal lawsuit, a consent order, and a contempt of court action.

Attorneys for Hill and the county commission were able to steer around a court hearing, stemming from a judge's initial order to rehire the employees and restore the status quo in the Sheriff's Office.

And Wednesday, Hill's attorneys agreed not to pursue an injunction of the county commission's actions.

But County Commissioner Wole Ralph has said he fears the potential albatross of oncoming litigation will sink the county's efforts to develop high-end residential and reel in new business.

He said he hopes the various disputes can be settled by the county's leaders instead in court by their attorneys.

Bell said the county will move forward soon.

"We are ready to get on about the business of running this county," Bell said.

GBI Investigation

Earlier in the day, Hill met with the GBI to consider an investigation into what he calls overstock in the county jail warehouse.

He says there are about one million sheets, 10,000 inmate uniforms, and dozens of extra mattresses in the warehouse.

But Bell provided numbers he said come from the county's Central Services' purchasing records.

He said there are 5,400 sheets purchased since July 2002 and 3,874 uniforms purchased since May 2002.

The GBI would need a "top to bottom," forensic audit to conduct an investigation, Hill said.

He could not say who would conduct the audit or how much it would cost.