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Sheriff disbands air unit, puts house up for sale

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has disbanded his air-operations unit, citing "lack of support."

He wrote a letter to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency this month, after losing his race for re-election, notifying the agency the sheriff's office was no longer interested in an air unit.

According to a GEMA spokeswoman, the sheriff's office had a helicopter, a piece of Department of Defense equipment obtained through the state agency, as part of a cooperative effort between state and local law enforcement.

"Our excess property manager, Don Sherrod, received a letter saying they were disbanding the air ops unit due to lack of support," said Kandice Eldon, GEMA spokeswoman. The sheriff's office reportedly didn't give the state agency any more information.

GEMA is transferring the helicopter to the Georgia State Patrol, Eldon said.

Hill had touted the helicopter, along with a tank and other excess, former military equipment, as examples of how he was serious about fighting drugs and cleaning up crime. He regularly cited the equipment as accomplishments of his first term. In 2006, Hill asked to have his office's budget expanded so he could purchase sniper rifles, assault rifles and night vision goggles. At the time, the sheriff told the Clayton News Daily he loved technology, and would take any equipment available, to become a "paramilitary organization," protecting people.

"I love technology," Hill said in 2006. "If I had the money, I'd put a satellite in the sky to read the license plates off of cars."

Hill could not be reached for comment this week. The sheriff had a practice of putting news media outlets on "probation," whenever there were news articles he didn't like, or articles he deemed unfavorable.

He has not spoken to the Clayton News Daily in more than six months, and has not been quoted by any media outlet since he lost a run-off race in early August.

Workers in the sheriff's office -- who said they don't want to be named because of a fear of being fired -- told the Clayton News Daily that Hill has not been at work since Aug. 5.

In another action, the sheriff put his Riverdale-area home up for sale recently.

The house, a brick, custom ranch house at 1262 Wicker Court, is listed on the Multiple Listings Service at a price of $295,900. It has four-bedrooms, three-bathrooms, a wet bar, and a game room, according to the listing.

Hill bought the 28-year-old house on three acres in 2004, and paid $240,000.

Hill, a controversial sheriff, once boasted he would serve as the county's chief law enforcement officer for 20 years, but he narrowly lost a bid for re-election during the Democratic primary.

Hill was beaten by Kem Kimbrough, an attorney who once worked in the sheriff's office under Hill's predecessor. Kimbrough now faces Republican, Jack Rainwater, a former Atlanta Police officer, in the November election.