Attorney Bill Atkins warns county commissioners against rejecting a settlement reached between his client, Tuggle, and Hill Tuesday. The commission has not publicly taken action to approve or reject the settlement.
JONESBORO The Clayton County Board of Commissioners could be sued if it refuses to pay a court settlement stemming from actions Sheriff Victor Hill took nearly a decade ago, an attorney warned Tuesday.
It has been eight years since Hill had Mark Tuggle, the brother of his predecessor, arrested for allegedly making harassing phone calls to the sheriff’s office. The charges were later dropped and Tuggle sued Hill in his official and unofficial capacities for wrongful arrest. He won a judgment against the sheriff in federal court. Hill was ordered to pay Tuggle $475,000 in 2008.
Tuggle still hasn’t received his money.
His attorney, Bill Atkins, told commissioners this week that his client and Hill have reached a negotiated settlement which would require the county pay Tuggle about $313,000. He strongly urged they approve that settlement because he said there will be no further negotiations.
“The number is the number and it’s not going to change,” Atkins said. “The consequence of turning down that number is very simple. You will be litigating on two fronts. You will be litigating with Victor Hill in a mandamus action. You will be paying his attorney fees for the privilege because you’re required to by statute. And you’ll be litigating with us in federal court.”
He later said, “By the time we are through, you will pay far in excess of the amount we have agreed to settle this case for.”
Commissioners did not publicly comment on the settlement. Atkins waited to see what they’d do after an executive session later on, but the commission took no action when they returned to open session.
In other public comments at the commission meeting:
• Dr. Henry Anderson chided the commission over a proposed budget cut to the police department. The police budget will be cut by $338,403 if the proposed fiscal year 2014 budget is approved. Anderson cited news articles from before Chairman Jeff Turner took office in January, where he pledged to increase funding for the department.
He also cited articles where Magistrate Court Chief Judge Daphne Walker said a high number of residents in the county are renters.
“If you as a commission fail ... to put the police budget as it was or increasing it, then I feel in my opinion that you uphold the interests, standards and values of these renters that tear down this county and put a strain on our resources with their criminally-minded criminal element and thuggish, negative behavior more than you support citizens who are homeowners that are law-abiding,” Anderson said.
• Linda Walker said it appeared a 2008 county ordinance regarding the cutting down of trees is being violated on property across Walt Stephens Road from where she lives. Walker said the county has not hired an arborist to enforce the ordinance, despite the ordinance requiring the hiring of one.
Walker also said the ordinance allows only pine, yellow poplar and sweet gum trees to be harvested, but she said the land is being “clear-cutted” so hardwood trees, including hickories and oaks, are also being cut down. She said her property has been “severely devalued” because of the tree removals.
She blamed officials in the county’s Community Development Department.
“Your employees in your Community Development Department seem unaware and uncaring that this ordinance even exists when they issued a tree harvesting permit,” Walker said. “As a consequence, not one provision of this ordinance is being enforced.”