By Curt Yeomans
Outgoing Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill's alleged refusal to work with his successor on a smooth transition of power will hurt the efficiency of the sheriff's department, and ultimately the county's residents, according to Sheriff-elect Kem Kimbrough.
Hill has allegedly ordered deputies to bar the incoming sheriff from entering the county jail, and forbidden them from talking to their future boss, said Kimbrough, a former legal advisor and jail commander for the sheriff's department before Hill was sheriff.
Kimbrough said he is concerned about the effects Hill's alleged unwillingness to cooperate will have on the department, and -- by extension -- residents of Clayton County.
Kimbrough defeated Hill in the Aug. 5, Democratic party, run-off election. He then defeated Republican Jack Rainwater in the Nov. 4, general election. Kimbrough takes office on Jan. 1.
"This doesn't hurt me, I've already won the election," said Kimbrough. "Jan. 1, I will be the new sheriff, but it is a detriment to the citizens, because ... there are still things that have to be done between now and Jan. 1, to provide the services that the citizens expect."
After his swearing ceremony on Dec. 19, Kimbrough accused Hill of hampering the department's ability to function by creating an atmosphere of "incredible anxiety" and "incredible pressure" among his employees. The sheriff-elect said Hill has done this by not allowing his successor into the county jail to work with deputies and other staff members.
"The No. 1 impact right now, really, of not allowing me into that facility is that the people in the sheriffs office -- there are 331full-time employees over there -- they want to know their new sheriff," Kimbrough said. "Some of them remember me from when I worked there before, but others may not. They want to know their new sheriff and they want to ask me questions.
"So, he's hurting the employees of the sheriff's office, and that reduces the efficiency of the sheriff's office," Kimbrough said. "Every day he hinders me from doing that [entering the jail] is a day I can't make a plan that better serves the citizens."
Hill could not be reached for comment. He has not responded to requests from the Clayton News Daily for nearly a year, and has largely stayed out of the public arena since he lost the election.
The situation described by Kimbrough is frustrating to Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell, who said he does not believe things will go smoothly when it comes time to officially transfer power in the sheriff's department.
The chairman also said, recently, that he has not spoken directly with Hill in some time, and the county now communicates with the sheriff through its attorney.
"We won't have a smooth transfer of power," Bell said. "I just wish there was a way to get Sheriff Hill to be more reasonable."