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GBI likely to probe allegations against Victor Hill

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Police Department plans to ask the GBI to investigate Sheriff Victor Hill on allegations of malfeasance, misuse of funds, and forcing deputies to campaign for the sheriff while on duty.

Police Chief Jeff Turner said he is reviewing the evidence brought forward by "a whistleblower," but planned to ask the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to step in.

The "whistleblower," the sheriff's public information officer, Jonathan Newton, is accusing the sheriff of forcing county employees to work on Hill's personal projects.

Newton alleges that he worked on Hill's autobiography, "Keeper of the County," at Hill's house, while on county time. Newton also alleges that he worked on the sheriff's re-election campaign, while on county time. He says Hill's whole re-election campaign, including get-out-the-vote coordinators and poll workers, were staffed by sheriff's office employees while they were on duty.

"All of this while on county time and under the intimidation of [Hill and Chief Deputy Jon Gibson]," according to Newton's written statement to the police. "The run-off campaign was an exercise in ignorance, and both 'managers' were now ordering employees to 'volunteer,'" the statement said.

Newton, who once published the Clayton Progress, an African-American newspaper, and who ran for the General Assembly's State House District 78 seat, has worked with Hill since April 2007. He released the three-page statement, as well as a number of audio recordings, apparently surreptitiously made, and allegedly showing the sheriff's office's alleged, blatant disregard for the law.

In the one released recording with what is said to be Hill's voice on it, the sheriff tells someone (allegedly Newton) to drop a grievance complaint. "You do that," he says, "and then come on over and let's get back to work."

According to Newton, the recording captures Hill ordering him to drop a civil service complaint and report for duty to the sheriff's Riverdale home, to work on Hill's autobiography.

"Sheriff Hill informed me that I had three options: 1. Return to his house and finish writing his book, 2. Resign, 3. Be terminated. I did not know what to do," Newton wrote. He said he is currently on paid sick leave.

The sheriff could not immediately be reached for comment.

Newton was thought, by some observers of the sheriff's office, to be a part of Hill's inner circle. He was entrusted with large parts of the sheriff's unsuccessful re-election campaign, and the presentation and promotion of Hill.

In Newton's personal account in his statement, he progresses from initial adulation, when he tells the sheriff he would be honored to assist with an autobiography, to having panic attacks at the thought of being in Hill's presence.

"I continued reporting to his home to write the book, until I couldn't take it any longer," Newton said. "While at his home, I felt pressured and fearful. On several occasions, the sheriff talked about getting vengeance on those he felt responsible for his downfall ... I felt the sheriff was very unstable, highly emotional and irrational ... I was fearful of what could happen at his house."