Three sue Hill, county in federal complaint

Victor Hill

Sheriff Victor Hill

ATLANTA — It’s 2005 all over again in Clayton County, give or take a couple dozen deputies.

Three current or former Clayton County sheriff’s deputies have filed suit in U.S. District Court against Sheriff Victor Hill, alleging retaliation, discrimination and a hostile work environment.

The ink barely had time to dry on the $300,000 check Hill wrote out of his budget to settle up with Mark Tuggle when Brian Crisp, Jeff Mitchell and Garland Watkins filed suit Thursday. They are being represented by the man who represented Crisp, Watkins and about two dozen other deputies in 2005, attorney Harlan Miller.

The three men also named Chief Deputy Shon Hill and Clayton County as defendants.

The 25-page suit alleges the sheriff and his underling, Shon Hill, retaliated against the trio starting in January because they campaigned against Victor Hill last year. Watkins also ran an unsuccessful write-in campaign against Hill.

As an investigator under former Sheriff Kem Kimbrough, Crisp was assigned to investigate alleged wrongdoings by Victor Hill and report those findings to the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office. Hill was indicted on 37 felonies, some of which were dismissed prior to the jury’s verdict of acquittal on the balance last month.

The lawsuit alleges that shortly after he took office in January, Victor Hill reassigned Watkins and Crisp to a newly created Crime Suppression Unit and changed their work schedules to 12-hour overnight shifts. The new duties required them to do little more than surveillance, according to the suit.

The suit alleges Hill and Hill demoted Crisp from captain to lieutenant and Mitchell from major to lieutenant. Watkins kept his chief deputy title under the county’s Civil Service System but was stripped of responsibilities and duties of that position, the suit alleges.

“Defendants V. Hill and S. Hill openly treated Plaintiff Watkins with contempt and disdain, referring to him in official communications merely as ‘Watkins’ without reference to his rank or position,” the suit alleges. “He was assigned to the supervision of lower-ranking employees, including Capts. Samuel Smith and Roland Boerher.”

Crisp has 30 years experience with the sheriff’s office and Watkins had more than 25 years before leaving in June to take a job as investigator for the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office.

Crisp and Watkins were two of 27 deputies Victor Hill fired on his first day in office in January 2005. The group hired Miller and sued, splitting millions in a settlement agreement. They got their jobs back but some retired or took jobs at the Clayton County Police Department rather than return.

Hill lost a re-election bid in 2008 to Kimbrough, who in turn lost to Hill last year.

None of the parties involved could be reached by press time Friday.