Information from the AP was used in this report
Victor Hill won’t have to worry about the Governor running him off the job.
Nathan Deal announced Thursday that state law prevents him from appointing a panel to considering suspending the new sheriff of Clayton County.
Hill is facing 32 felony charges, including theft, racketeering and making false statements. The charges largely focus on campaign spending when Hill served as sheriff the first time.
Deal could suspend the sheriff if he was indicted while in office, according to a statement. But since the indictment came down after Hill’s term, there is nothing the governor can do.
"Deal has concluded that the law outlining the procedures for the suspension of public officials under indictment applies only to officials indicted while holding their elected office," spokesman Brian Robinson said in a statement. Robinson pointed out that Hill was indicted last February when he was a private citizen.
Hill, who was sworn in last month and took office Tuesday, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday afternoon.
Hill was unseated in 2008 by Kem Kimbrough in the county of about a quarter-million people just south of Atlanta. However, Hill thwarted Kimbrough's bid for re-election in an August Democratic primary runoff, defeating him by more than 1,000 votes. He was the only candidate on the ballot in November, his lone challenger a write-in candidate.
Under Georgia law, anyone convicted of a felony cannot hold the office of sheriff - meaning it's possible Hill would be tossed from office if convicted of even one charge. Hill's certification as a peace officer also has been suspended. State law requires sheriffs to obtain that certification within six months of taking office.
At its annual meeting in November, the Georgia Sheriffs' Association's board decided to ask the governor to appoint a review panel to look into suspending Hill and recommended that he be suspended.
“The sheriff’s association feels we’ve done the appropriate as far as recommending the governor appoint this committee,” Association president and Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills told News/Talk WSB. “It is my personal belief that his attorney’s interpretation of the statue is incorrect. That’s my personal opinion, but I’m not the one that can appoint the committee. So that’s that.”
Norris earlier said he was not aware of an instance of someone under indictment being elected or serving as sheriff in the state. But he said that the fact that Hill is under indictment has no bearing on the enforcement of the law in the county as he is the legally sworn-in sheriff with all the rights and duties that entails.
In Clayton County, the sheriff's department has typically carried out court functions, such as serving warrants and running the jail. A county police force handles other law enforcement duties.
But Hill took a tough-on-crime stance in his first term and boasted on his campaign website of efforts to crack down on drugs and prostitution. He used a tank owned by the agency during drug raids.
Hill became mired in controversy the day he took office in 2005, when he fired 27 deputies. He said there were valid reasons for each firing, though a judge later ordered that the deputies be reinstated.