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Sheriff under fire for uniform purchase

By Justin Boron

The Clayton County sheriff on Tuesday night was accused of flouting county policy when he asked the Board of Commissioners to replenish an overdrawn part of his budget for new uniforms.

Sheriff Victor Hill purchased close to $30,000 worth of new uniforms as part of his plan to replace the tan and brown sheriff uniforms with blue ones. But he did it without notifying the county finance department and the county commission.

The budget amendment was approved in a four to one vote.

The issue also opened the door to questions posed recently by elected officials over how much control they have over their own funds once the county commission provides them.

Hill cited court rulings that he says allow him to spend money as he sees fit without the approval of the county commission.

"Nowhere in the law does it say everything I do in my budget I have to go before the Board of Commissioners and say 'mother may I,'" he said.

In circumstances unrelated to the sheriff, District Attorney Jewel Scott also has said she believes elected officials have the right to maintain their own budget.

Commissioner Charley Griswell, a frequent critic of Hill and the lone dissenter in the vote, questioned the idea, warning that it could open a dangerous financial door.

"We start opening a door to let people buy stuff and then come back (to the county commission)," he said.

Commissioner Wole Ralph said he thought the amendment is a non-issue but was interested in the broader question of how elected officials manage their budgets.

"It's a legal question that needs to be posed to the county attorney," he said.

NFL player pushes for centers

The county commission also received an offer Tuesday night from Carolina Panthers Linebacker Chris Draft for youth guidance in the area.

But the former Falcons player had one condition - build recreation centers.

"We understand the problems that you're having," he said. "We need a place to come down to."

County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said the county was working toward the centers and would have the first one on line in December.

But he and Commissioner Virginia Gray also invited Draft to provide counseling at the various summer camps and recreation programs being run at the schools.

Also in the meeting, the commission faced further criticism for its failure to get under way the six centers proposed in the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax campaign.

The attacks have become a monthly occurrence at the county commission's night meetings.

County officials maintain that the senior center and natatorium are recreation centers that are under construction.