The embattled new sheriff of Clayton County has been stripped of his authority over the county's drug enforcement task force. The county commission voted Tuesday morning to place the task force under the police department's control.
The commission, led by Chairman Eldrin Bell, voted on the issue after Sheriff Victor Hill refused to swear in the task force members when he took office. Hill delayed the action while asking the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to probe how drug money seized by the former administration was spent.
“It was my understanding that 70 percent of the forfeiture money is used to pay bonds,” Hill said. “We weren't sure if that was in compliance with the law as far as forfeiture money.”
Hill said both he and the new Clayton County district attorney asked the county commission to see an audit. Hill said the request was denied.
“We find it highly suspicious that when we ask questions about, ‘Are we operating under the letter of the law?’ -- we receive no cooperation, no answers,” Hill said.
Bell said the county attorney tried to answer the sheriff’s and the D.A.’s questions.
Hill said he would seek a court injunction to regain his authority over the task force, which is made up of both sheriff's deputies and police officers.
The task force members were split as to how they would respond to the commission vote, with some saying they would continue to report to the sheriff's office. Those siding with the sheriff will not be paid.
The task force controversy is the latest battle between the new sheriff and the county commission. Hill went head-to-head with Chairman Bell on Jan. 3 when he stripped 27 employees of their weapons and badges and fired them.
Bell asked for and received a court injunction in which a judge ordered Hill to rehire the employees until the issue of whether they are protected under civil service is decided.
Hill rehired 26 of the employees with the same pay and benefits, but demoted and moved them to the county jail. A 27th employee resigned. The employees, while working in lower-ranking jobs, have filed a federal lawsuit against Hill.
After reassigning the fired employees, Sheriff Hill moved to a new controversy Friday when he asked the GBI to investigate spending by the former sheriff. During a media tour of a warehouse near the jail, Hill told reporters that he wanted the GBI to look into the amount of jail supplies stored there. Among the items displayed, gas masks, 27 boxes televisions, thousands of inmate uniforms, and one million bed sheets.