Though the votes have been counted and Victor Hill has been elected, in effect, to reclaim the office of sheriff in Clayton County despite 37 pending felony charges, he could be kept from moving into the post on Jan. 1—by the courts or by other sheriffs in Georgia.
“This is a bizarre set of circumstances that just hasn’t happened before,” said Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association.
Sills said Wednesday he expects the sheriff’s association to ask the governor to suspend Hill if he has not been tried by the end of the year. Sills said the association’s leaders have started discussions but no steps can be taken until Jan. 1, when Hill would take office.
Though Hill has only won the Democratic primary, there is no Republican on the November general election ballot.
Also, Georgia has suspended Hill’s certification as a law enforcement officer, which state law requires all sheriffs to have.
The former homicide detective’s certification was suspended when he was indicted in January. If he takes office on Jan. 1, the law gives him six months to secure Peace Officers Standards and Training Council certification. Until then, “he can’t arrest anybody.” Sills said.
POST has said Hill would not be certified if he is under indictment. No trial date has been set.
Hill, who claimed to be the law-and-order candidate in his race against a sitting sheriff, is charged with felonies including racketeering, theft, violating his oath of office and trying to influence a witness. All the alleged crimes happened during his first term as sheriff, Jan. 1, 2005, through Dec. 31, 2008.
If the charges are unresolved on Jan. 1, Sills said, he expects the sheriffs’ association will ask Gov. Nathan Deal to appoint a panel to recommend whether Hill should be suspended from office.
Hill received almost 54 percent of the Clayton runoff votes to the 46 percent for incumbent Sheriff Kem Kimbrough, who won the office from Hill in 2008.
Hill has insisted that he is innocent of the charges against him.
The indictment alleges Hill used county cars and county-issued credit cards for vacations, sometimes taking along a woman on his staff who was supposed to have been at work. He also is accused of taking money from his failed 2008 re-election campaign. He could get up to 535 years in prison if he is convicted.
Sills said he wasn’t surprised Hill won, despite his pending criminal charges, because of “everything I’ve read about Clayton County ever since Victor was elected the first time.
“A sheriff is no better than the community that elects him. … And they get what they deserve as long as it complies with the law.
[Editor’s Note: According to the Census Bureau, Clayton County is 66 percent black, 15.5 percent white, and 13.5 percent Hispanic. On his first day as sheriff in 2005, Mr. Hill fired 27 white employees and had snipers stand guard on the roof as they were escorted out of the building.]