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Sheriff, commission dispute set for hearing

By Justin Boron

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners and Sheriff Victor Hill will go to court at the end of October to determine whether he had the right to re-paint his patrol cars and remove plaques displaying some of his political adversaries' names from their spot at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center.

Almost a month had passed before the court date was set while several attempts to serve Hill the suit failed.

Eventually, his attorney acknowledged service for him, said Jack Hancock, the attorney representing the county commission in the conflict. The court date was set this week for Oct. 28.

Prior to the acknowledgment, Candise Podry, a process server appointed by the court on Aug. 29, said Hill was evading service. She eventually gave up.

"This was just silly. It was embarrassing," she said. "It shouldn't be that hard to find this guy."

When reached for comment, Hill hung up the phone abruptly, and subsequent phone calls were not returned.

Hill is normally responsible for service of civil suits in the county. But to avoid any conflict of interest, Podry, a contracted employee of RPG Attorney Services, was assigned the task of serving the suit, according to a copy of Superior Court Judge Matthew Simmons' order.

Podry said she attempted to serve Hill numerous times at work, home, and events at which he was scheduled to appear. She said she even visited his home twice late at night.

"He was never around," Podry said, adding she suspected some of Hill's employees were covering for him.

Her failure to find him, she said, is extremely out of the ordinary for such a public figure.

Podry said occasionally she is unable to serve people with less public visibility as Hill. But given that he is sheriff, Podry said it should have been a simple task.

Hill sparked the suit when he refused to replace plaques he moved from their spot in the Justice Center.

Since the suit was filed, Hill has placed the plaques on a wall in the main corridor through the Sheriff's Office. "The Wall of Honor" and "Wall of Fame" contain nine plaques and frames.

Hill removed the plaques without first asking permission of the county commission, which it alleges in its suit violated its control of county-owned, public property, including the appearance of the Justice Center. The plaques, which commemorate the building's construction, display the names of former Sheriff Stanley Tuggle, former County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray, and other commissioners.

Hill also has continued to re-paint the fleet of sheriff vehicles from brown and tan to black and gold. In an earlier interview, Hill estimated the cost of repainting 55 vehicles to be $20,000.

Michael Smith, county's chief staff attorney, acknowledged that color of the cars and uniforms - which Hill also changed - aren't necessarily the county commission's decision.

The issue, he said, is his right to alter county property. Also in question is Hill's expenditure of public funds without following the policies and framework set up by the county to account for and handle it.