Clayton County Sheriff-elect Victor Hill

Moderated by Rick Badie

In November, Clayton County voters re-elected Victor Hill as sheriff with more than 70 percent of the vote, even though he faces 32 felony charges. Today, the president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association explains why his group doesn’t want the sheriff-elect to take office until the criminal case is resolved. A state representative for Clayton County explains why the embattled official first deserves the right to prove his innocence.

Hill deserves right to prove innocence 

By Darryl Jordan

Clayton County Sheriff-elect Victor Hill is a man who has admitted to the voters of Clayton County that he has made some mistakes in the past, when he was in office the first time. , and t Clayton County voters apparently have forgiven any past mistakes, because they elected him overwhelmingly in both the Democratic primary and general elections.

Now, the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association apparently wants to hijack the expressed desire of the Clayton County voters by keeping Hill him from taking office in January. This sets a bad precedent, not just for Hill, but for all people who are falsely accused of crimes and are tarred and feathered by the media, and by those who want to jump the gun on the criminal justice process before any trial has taken place and before the blind lady of justice has adjudicated the case.

A person is presumed innocent until he is convicted by a jury of his peers, not by a non-elected association or by some gnostic, elite and effete group of individuals in Georgia. Though not many of our good-hearted citizens of Clayton County hail from some special club, they do, however, enjoy their rights under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. To remove Hill from office for indictments which seem to be dubious at best, and which are slated soon to go to trial before a jury of his Clayton County peers, seems to me to be a not-so-subtle attempt to circumvent the will of the voters.

In 2007, Clinch County Sheriff Winston Peterson was indicted on several accounts; he remained in office all during the indictment. When he was tried by a jury of his peers in federal court, he was found not guilty on all charges. Hill should be afforded the same treatment.

The potential Clayton County jury pool should not be poisoned by the media fanfare which would ensue if he were not allowed to take office and to serve while the inexorable wheels of justice have time to roll forward. Aborted justice is no justice.

When certain people can’t get their wishes at the voting booths, they then employ raw, unmitigated and egregious attacks on the Voting Rights Act. This is unconscionable. The people of Clayton County are tired of this shabby and condescending treatment from people who would not deign to eat or shop in Clayton County, and people who can hardly utter the name “Clayton County” without sneering or choking. We know clearly who we elected as sheriff.

We should simply let the hands of justice work itself out. Hill will be tried before a jury of his peers. If he is convicted, then he will be removed from office. But if he is found not guilty, then he will continue to serve, just like Sheriff Peterson of Clinch County.

If judging Hill before adjudication can happen to him, then it could happen to any Georgia citizen. This is why we cherish the United States Constitution. It protects the people against mob action.

State Rep. Darryl Jordan represents House District 77.

Office more important than office holder

By Howard R. Sills

In 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The office of sheriff is the most important of all the executive offices of the county.” In 1942, the Georgia Supreme Court said, “The office of sheriff carries with it the duty to preserve the peace and protect the lives, persons, property, health, and morals of the people.”

No other entity of Georgia government is more connected to the myriad of agencies, departments and courts than the sheriff’s office. It is the original and essential element for the protection of the public.

The core mission of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association (GSA) is to ensure the integrity of this office. In regard to Sheriff-elect Victor Hill, it appears that this is the first time in modern history that anyone has ever been elected sheriff in Georgia while under indictment for felony crimes. The publicity surrounding Hill has resulted in the GSA being contacted repeatedly by a plethora of media outlets seeking information related to his election since he won the Democratic Primary in July.

Forty-four years ago, our General Assembly passed legislation (O.C.G.A. §15-16-26) wherein the governor may appoint a commission consisting of two sheriffs and the attorney general to investigate a sheriff for criminal charges, alleged misconduct or incapacity to perform the duties of the office. The GSA sought and supported enactment of that law.

In 1984, our Legislature enacted a law (O.C.G.A. §45-5-6) which prescribes that, upon the indictment of any public official for a felony crime, the governor shall appoint a commission consisting of the attorney general and two like officials to determine if the indictment adversely affects administration of the office of the indicted public official and whether the rights and interest of the public are adversely affected. If the commission makes such a determination, it shall recommend to the governor that the public official be suspended from office.

In cases where a commission recommends suspension, the governor may suspend the official until the final disposition of the case. This statute also allows for an indicted public official to voluntarily ask the governor to be suspended until the case is resolved. The public official would continue to receive his salary during the suspension period.

Our association’s board of directors voted unanimously to ask Gov. Nathan Neal to appoint the commission required by law, and if the commission recommended Hill’s suspension, that he be suspended. We also asked the governor to consider appointing retired Clayton County Sheriff Bill Lemacks as acting sheriff for the suspension period, if he were able to make such an appointment.

Hill’s certification as a peace officer is suspended. He has no arrest power. He cannot even participate in the execution of a search warrant. How can an individual conceivably act as the chief law enforcement officer of an entire community after having been divested of the primal element of the office itself? The GSA has always maintained a very proactive stance regarding alleged misconduct and/or criminal activity of sheriffs.

Our request to Gov. Deal related to Hill marks the sixth such request we have made in the last two years. On three separate occasions, we made such requests regarding former Wilcox County Sheriff Stacy Bloodsworthcq, and twice in connection with the late Talbot County Sheriff Herman Howardcq. Bloodsworth resigned five days after his indictment for federal civil rights crimes; Howard died while still under investigation.

The people of Clayton County are entitled to have the person they elect hold the office of sheriff, but only if that person can legally perform the duties of said office. I hold the office I hold far more important than me holding the office!

Putnam County Sheriff Howard R. Sills is president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association.

30 comments Add your comment

Mama Says

December 27th, 2012
11:15 pm

By the way I make no argument as to the guilt or innocence of Hill, I make the argue me t that we cannot afford to have a criminally charged person in charge of enforcing criminal law.

Wonder why the black leaders in law enforcement are silent ?

Atlanta has nothing but black law enforcement leaders and there are two or three very powerful black sheriffs in the Georgia Sheriffs Association, why are they quite if Hill is being done wrong ?

Mama Says

December 27th, 2012
11:10 pm

Billy,

You right Clayton is about 87% black. Of the 200,000 black citizens less than 20,000 voted for Victor Hill.

So based on your math and theory there should be no more than oh, about 10 people protesting.

You also seem totally ignorant to the fact that the only white person elected in the county was the DA.

The new commissioner and commission chairman are moving forward with no problems from those evil white folks you are so afraid of.

Seems you are content to blame whitey while your black sheriff elect violates you.

Mama Says

December 27th, 2012
10:59 pm

Ok let’s try this.

All over Georgia and dare I say most other states, police have their certifications suspended by POST when they are under investigation for criminal wrong doing. Mind you I said under investigation, not after being indicted.

These officers are almost always fired prior to the disposition of the criminal charges and most are fired as soon as criminal charges are filed.

Officers are removed from “road duties” pending internal investigations very frequently and are fired in most cases as soon as criminal charges are filed.

There is no due process, no appeal process, no procedure available which will allow them to retain their jobs— nothing. Nothing the officer can do. The basis of this is the old notion that should a officer face criminal charges or allegations of conduct unbecoming, he has therefore placed at risk his honesty and reliability to enforce the laws of his state. This belief resides in the fact that officers are suppose to uphold that which is right, once even the image of wrong doing touches him his word is useless.

The fact that anyone could argue that Victor Hill should retain his office during the due process phase of his criminal case, which is being afforded to him, as a criminally charged defendant ( the same process we all get ) is ludicrous at best. The thought is void of not only the basic common sense which should accompany any charged suspect holding office but is also a huge departure from the very standards that Hill himself would apply to any of his own deputies should they find themselves in a similar position.

Now to face the elephant in the room. Since we now have “leaders” who profess to serve our best interest actually saying that a criminal defendant should hold office i ask, how can you possibly argue that a sheriff of any county be allowed to take office, obtain the power to deny anyone else their freedoms and control the rights of the inmates in his care when he is suspected of 37 individual crimes himself ?

And more importantly how do you base that argument on nothing but race ?

Which is more important to you, the rights of one black man facing criminal prosecution or the rights of every black, white or other citizen that you wish him to have power over ?

Also, since you base your entire theory on race, given your ” modern day lynching” mindset when will you make the same arguments FOR the officers who currently stand suspended for excessive force or violating the rights of the people they are accused of abusing ? Should they be allowed to stay active, policing our streets until they are convicted ? Would that make the black community feel better ?

Somehow I seriously doubt that your standard would be the same if we were talking about the officers who were alleged to have killed the elderly Mrs Johnson with a hail of gunfire as she sat in her wheel chair, would it ? Or do you really say that criminally charged cops should be allowed to continue to serve until convicted ?

I just don’t remember the black elected leaders having that position then or in any other case where a cop was accused of violating a minority. Interesting to see your new attitude toward public servants now. The bigger problem is that by virtue of your argument you deny the entire black community of the right to claim that they or you truly want people judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

Be real leaders and call it as it is. There should no case In which elected leaders should ever argue for an indicted person to be able to hold public office as they are under indictment, regardless of color.

Should he be found not guilty then you may have your point but not until then.

By the way Clayton County is currently about 87% black. Should you actually get your wishes Hill would be set loose on other blacks not the whites you argue are trying to keep him down.

BillyRip

December 27th, 2012
10:49 pm

Those handful of white rich folks complaining are the same people who threw the entire county under the bus with the school acreditation loss. They ran to the Gov. then that time they lost big money. In Clayton the rich white few want to govern the poor super many, that won’t work with the installment of a white ex-sheriff. You’re asking for DAILY PROTEST!!!!! by AFRICANS

BillyRip

December 27th, 2012
10:21 pm

Clayton County’s population is 285,000, 89% Black. The Majority of the population voted for Sheriff Hill, that who we want as sheriff, we live here, any suspension or any thing else is “Disenfranchising”over 266,000 Black folks. This by an unethical Gov.

RAMZAD

December 27th, 2012
8:55 pm

The problem is that black people do not have any standards and do not ask any authority to be accountable.

Black people’s relative short bout with freedom in America is replete with the results of little or no accountability. Black politicians, once they gain the cult of the personality, can do not wrong.
Victor Hill has earned his stripes. He probably asked Marion Barry how he did it.

Bob Loblaw

December 27th, 2012
2:11 pm

I was with the “pro-Victor Hill taking office because he was elected” part until I read:

Hill’s certification as a peace officer is suspended. He has no arrest power. He cannot even participate in the execution of a search warrant. How can an individual conceivably act as the chief law enforcement officer of an entire community after having been divested of the primal element of the office itself?

Sounds like he can’t legally carry out the duties of the office. Until, or if those privileges are restored, Hill can’t do the job. I’m afraid he may need a time out until the trial ends.

SAWB

December 27th, 2012
1:32 pm

It is difficult to understand how any reasonable person could vote for Victor Hill for anything, but alas the citizens of Clayton County did. At the end of the day he deserves the right to clear his name and the Governor should assure that this process is moved along as rapidly as possible. If he is cleared than fine they get the government they deserve, but if found guilty they get another inmate.

Logical Dude

December 27th, 2012
12:25 pm

Rick Badie introduces Howard Sills – “the president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association explains why his group doesn’t want the sheriff-elect to take office until the criminal case is resolved.”

After reading the column, well, no, he only goes to say that he wants the Governor to enact the board to make recommendations on whether to suspend Hill, with a history lesson on the side.
Of course, reading between the lines, it sure sounds like he has a beef of some sort against Hill, but doesn’t come out and just say it.

Howard,
Why not just say it? What would YOU recommend to the governor and WHY?

(You know, other than “He’s indicted, no serve for you!”) What would you think makes Victor Hill unable to be Sheriff? (especially if he is found not guilty)

Logical Dude

December 27th, 2012
12:16 pm

Darryl,
You had me agreeing with you until you basically cut down everyone by saying “shabby and condescending treatment from people who would not deign to eat or shop in Clayton County, and people who can hardly utter the name “Clayton County” without sneering or choking.”

Dude, How about actually taking the conversation to an intellectual level without demeaning those you feel are “the others”? You may have lost your own valid argument by doing this.