Georgia Sheriff Fires Workers, but Then a Judge Intervenes
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: January 5, 2005 by the New York Times
JONESBORO, Ga., Jan. 4 (AP) - On his first day at work, the new sheriff of Clayton County called 27 employees into his office on Monday, fired them and had snipers stand guard on the roof as they were escorted out the door.
A judge on Tuesday ordered him to rehire the employees.
The sheriff, Victor Hill, 39, defended the firings and said he had the right to shake up the department in whatever way he felt necessary.
Sheriff Hill also said it was necessary to fire the workers the way he did, including taking some deputies home in vans normally used to transport prisoners because the deputies were barred from using county cars.
Sheriff Hill was among a spate of black candidates elected last year in the county, which was once dominated by rural whites. The fired employees included four of the highest-ranking officers, all of them white. Sheriff Hill told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that their replacements would be black.
Sheriff Hill's move provoked an angry reaction from the newly elected chairman of the county commission, Eldrin Bell, who is black. He called the move illegal and filed for the restraining order granted by the judge, Stephen Boswell.
Judge Boswell granted a 30-day restraining order, halting the firings, and wrote that it appeared that "employees of the sheriff were terminated without cause" and in violation of the county's civil service rules. Sheriff Hill disagreed.
"A lot of people are under the impression that the sheriff's office is under civil service laws," he said. "But my research shows the employees work at the pleasure of the sheriff."
Sheriff Hill said one of the reasons for the security accompanying the firings was the assassination of Sheriff Derwin Brown in neighboring DeKalb County in 2000.
Sheriff Brown was gunned down in the driveway of his home three days before he was to be sworn in. The former sheriff, Sidney Dorsey, was found guilty of plotting to kill him and sentenced to life in prison.
"Derwin Brown sent out letters to 25 to 30 people letting them know they would not be reappointed when he took office," Sheriff Hill said.
The Clayton County Sheriff's Department employs 345 people.
Let me get this straight. This dumbass indiscriminately fires 27 people, violating their rights as civil servants, and quite possibly their civil rights, then claims there might be a plot to murder him? Nah, you think, after pulling a bullshit stunt like that? There might just be some folks pissed at that kind of treatment, regardless of the skin color of the person doing the firing.