Instead, he says, an exaggerated story hit the papers, fanned in part by Harlan Miller, the attorney for the fired employees. So he put out there that there were armed men standing and pointing guns and that people were forced into transport vans. It just never occurred.
That may be a bit of an understatement. Nationwide coverage notwithstanding, the dismissals prompted several lawsuits, including one discrimination case that is still making its way through federal court and could end up costing county taxpayers millions of dollars. Who says the sheriff is just about the jail? Not long before Hill took office in January , the county commission voted to move a crime scene investigation and a narcotics unit from the purview of the sheriff to the county police. The county said it was a way to avoid duplicating efforts; Hill saw it as retribution for his victory.
As we pull back onto Tara Boulevard after lunch, Hill points to a median with knee-high grass. And, as you can see, the grass is not cut. Victor Hill is clearly about more than minding the jail and securing the courts, and he makes no apologies for it. We were the original law enforcement.
We were chasing bad guys longer than anybody in this country. He pulls down a side street off Gardenwalk Boulevard, a tree-lined stretch of apartment complexes. The street dead ends, and at the end of the pavement, it looks like someone has left behind their living room set. Couches are overturned; old pallets are rain-soaked; trash is strewn everywhere. Hill dials his office and explains where the mess is. As a result, Hill is winning hearts and minds—at least at the street level.
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And Victor responds quickly. He gets a call about drugs, he sends a Cobra unit out. People take comfort in that. When I called Sheriff Hill, 15 minutes later his Cobra unit was on the street knocking on doors, looking for these children.
It allows him to grandstand as opposed to working toward any kind of substantive change. Hill sees the elections in which he won almost twice as many votes as Tuggle, the incumbent as a mandate that will only be strengthened this fall. With a new commission, he says, he can begin implementing his plan—to hire more deputies to staff a wing of the jail that is shuttered because of a lack of manpower, add 22 officers to his Cobra unit, install a crime mapping program and, oh yeah, fold the county police department into his office.
This jail is going to become a model for the nation. So this is it. This is what I want to do. He is sitting on one of the pine benches in the waiting area, a cavernous space of granite walls and plush red carpeting.
The sunglasses perched on his forehead reflect the soft gleam from light fixtures that, from high above, give the 21st floor of the Richard B. Russell federal building the air of an expensive restaurant with no tables. One by one, spectators file past Hill into the adjacent courtroom, where he is the guest of honor. In April , Hill signed a consent order requiring him to run certain personnel changes by Thomas Thrash, a federal judge.
The employees saw it as retaliation. Their attorney, Harlan Miller, will argue before Thrash today that Hill should be held in contempt of court. Walking past Hill, the plaintiffs ignore him as they enter the courtroom.
Hill, though, is affable as ever, soundbites at the ready. One spectator who passes quietly is Eldrin Bell.
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Bell has been among the most vocal supporters of the 27 employees Hill fired in January But the squabbles between the two men transcend the firings. And Bell got attorneys involved when Hill took down a plaque at the jail honoring the commission.
And on and on. Hill is by turns charitable and cutting when discussing Bell. It was like a two-year civil war before it finally united under David. So what soured their relationship? As the hearing drags from morning to late afternoon, even the attorneys seem to feel the effects. With each witness, Miller tries to add color and shading to his portrait of Hill as a vindictive and capricious leader.
Major Larry Bartlett, a year veteran, testifies that he was disciplined for failing to write up underlings who spoke critically of the sheriff at a Board of Commissioners meeting. Lieutenant David Ward, a year veteran whose job was to act as a sort of clearing house for homeland security intelligence, testifies that Hill moved him to stand guard in the courthouse atrium. With Hill in the witness box, Miller brings up the consent order. It must kill him to say that.
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For a man who has spent his life dreaming of the title of sheriff, having his decisions second-guessed by a judge must be a galling insult. And yet both on the stand and off-Hill seems at peace. Atlanta Magazine. Clayton County vs. DeKalb County: A scandal scorecard. Play our political bingo! Follow Us. Popular posts. Add to List. Add to Registry. About This Item We aim to show you accurate product information. Manufacturers, suppliers and others provide what you see here, and we have not verified it.
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