By Curt Yeomans
Outgoing Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill does not have the money to pay a court-ordered bond and needs more time to gather the funds, according to court documents filed Monday in a federal lawsuit involving the brother of Hill's predecessor.
Hill is appealing a federal jury's decision on Sept. 29, to award George Mark Tuggle $475,000, in a civil suit against the sheriff. The case centers on a January 2005, incident, in which Hill had Tuggle arrested for allegedly making harassing phone calls to the sheriff's office. Tuggle's brother, Stanley, was Hill's predecessor.
The sheriff had to post a $664,539.25 cost-and-supersedeas bond by the close of business on Monday to continue his appeal in the case. The bond was designed to make sure Tuggle still received the money he was awarded by the federal jury, in case Hill's appeal failed. The appeal will be dropped if the bond is not posted.
Instead of posting the bond, Hill's attorney, James Dearing, Jr., filed a motion asking for a month-long extension.
"Clayton County did not communicate its decision regarding the bond to Sheriff Hill's counsel until Monday morning," Dearing wrote in his motion. "In light of the current situation and Clayton County's decision at this time to not secure bond on behalf of Sheriff Hill, Sheriff Hill requests an additional 30 days to obtain a cost and supersedeas bond.
"In light of the complexity of obligations, and the fact that the bond far exceeds any personal assets of Sheriff Hill, such a request is not unreasonable," Dearing added.
Hill, Dearing, Bill Atkins (Tuggle's attorney) and Michael Smith (the county's attorney) could not be reached for comment Monday.
The county had been pricing the bond and attempting to get someone to pay a percentage of it, according to Smith, who had said earlier that he planned to take a recommendation to the Clayton County Board of Commissioners after he determined who would help the county post the bond.
On Monday, Ccommission Chairman Eldrin Bell said Smith had not yet brought a recommendation to the board. Bell also said the county would normally support county employees, but Hill is a different case. "I think the board will want to take a strong look at this," said Bell. "The actions of the sheriff haven't always been in the best interest of the county, and, maybe, outside of the scope of his duties."
In addition to Dearing's request for more time to pay the bond, Hill's attorney also sought a protective order to prevent his client from having to give a deposition on Dec. 29, at Atkins' law office. Dearing accused Atkins of trying to "create controversy," and said Hill did not have time in his schedule to give a deposition before the end of the year.
"[The] fact remains that he is the outgoing sheriff of a major metropolitan county, and a transition of some sort is taking place," Dearing said. "Plaintiff's insistence in taking Sheriff Hill's deposition during the last few days of his administration, and the year, is simply designed to harass and annoy Sheriff Hill."
However, after his swearing-in ceremony on Dec. 19, Sheriff-elect Kem Kimbrough painted a different picture of Hill's level of cooperation during the transition process. Kimbrough said the outgoing sheriff has barred him from entering the jail, and deputies are forbidden from talking to Hill's successor. Kimbrough takes office on Jan. 1.
"Every day he hinders me from doing that is a day I can't make a plan that better serves the citizens," Kimbrough said.