ATLANTA — Three former deputies with the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office have settled with Clayton County, ending a three-year legal fight.
Brian Crisp, Jeffrey Mitchell and Garland Watkins were awarded $750,000 in a settlement with the county Aug. 11.
The three filed a suit against Sheriff Victor Hill in November 2013, alleging the sheriff engaged in a “retaliatory campaign of severe harassment and intimidation” against them, largely due to their opposition to Hill’s candidacy for Clayton County sheriff years earlier.
Among the arguments made by the former deputies were allegations of wrongful termination based on the three campaigning against Hill in 2004, among other things.
The complaint states that Crisp, Mitchell and Watkins “actively supported and advocated the candidacy of Hill’s opponent in the election, then-Sheriff Stanley Tuggle, and openly and actively opposed the candidacy of Hill.”
Two of the three deputies, Crisp and Watkins, were among over 20 employees of the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office terminated in January 2005 and were marched out of the building as armed snipers watched on the roof of the building.
Mitchell was soon after demoted from the rank of lieutenant to sergeant.
In the legal action that followed, the three were transferred to the Clayton County Police Department and returned back to the Sheriff’s Office after Hill was defeated by Kem Kimbrough in the 2008 election.
During Kimbrough’s term as sheriff, Crisp was promoted to the rank of captain, Mitchell was made a major and Watkins was named the chief deputy, and was second-in-command to Kimbrough.
Not long after Hill was elected sheriff again in 2012, Watkins was replaced as chief deputy with Shon Hill, and was placed in a newly created Crime Suppression Unit with Crisp, which reportedly required them to work 12-hour night shifts.
Crisp and Mitchell were eventually demoted and Watkins was terminated.
Jeff Turner, Clayton County Commission chairman, said the $750,000 will be paid from the county’s general fund.
“It is an unfortunate situation that we had to address in a lawsuit that stems from the Sheriff’s Office,” Turner said. “At least we have this behind us now, and we will move forward from this point on.”
Hill was reelected as sheriff earlier this year when he received more than 60 percent of the vote, defeating four Democratic opponents in the May primary election. He faced no Republican opposition.