Victor Hill takes office, shakes up staff

6:42 PM, Jan 2, 2013   |    comments
Victor Hill, as shown on the Clayton County sheriff's web site January 2, 2013
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JONESBORO, GA -- There were no snipers on the roof of the courthouse, no flashy entrance this time for Victor Hill on the first business day of his second term as Clayton County's sheriff. He stayed away from the office much of the day, working "in the field," according to staff. Behind the scenes, he reassigned much of the department's top staff.

Hill was only visible as an online image on the sheriff's new website.

Hill has consistently dodged the press since he beat former sheriff Kem Kimbrough in the July primary -- likely because he keeps getting asked about the criminal charges he faces based on alleged corruption from his first term as sheriff. Hill denies the charges, calling them "politically motivated."

Now that he's taken office, the question is whether Victor Hill can keep it pending his criminal trial. The Governor can appoint a panel to make a recommendation regarding the removal of an elected official who is under felony indictment.

Wednesday, Deal demurred.  His office issued a news release saying "the governor plans to take a close look at this particular case, as it is unique in its circumstances" and promising "communications on this at some juncture in the near future." The Georgia Sheriff's Association has been urging the Governor to act quickly. Hill has been stripped of his POST certification, which means he has no arrest powers.

If Hill is removed pending a trial, his chief deputy would become the acting sheriff. Wednesday, Hill reassigned the sitting chief deputy, Garland Watkins, and replaced him with a former deputy named Shon Hill, believed to be no relation to the sheriff. Watkins ran a write-in campaign against Hill in November.

Hill's office declined to confirm or deny the replacement of the chief deputy. Watkins was among numerous personnel reassigned Wednesday by Hill, according to sources.

Hill was quietly sworn in last month. Shortly after he took office at midnight New Year's Eve, he ordered deputies to run DUI checkpoints.

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