After firing 27 employees on his first day on the job, newly elected Sheriff Victor Hill of the Clayton County (Ga.) Sheriff’s Department has been ordered to rehire them all. But Hill refuses to give in completely.
One of Hill’s lawyers says his client will comply with the judge’s order by considering the fired employees rehired, but they won’t be allowed to return to work. Instead, they will be placed on paid administrative leave until the judge hearing the case officially decides whether or not the firings were legal.
Harlan Miller, who represents the employees, plans to fight back.
“He was ordered to reinstate these people to their jobs,” Miller says. “We will take the steps to make sure the sheriff is in compliance.”
Hill, who is black, says he fired the 27 white employees, including many of the highest ranking officers at the agency, because the department was “dysfunctional.” He also says he believes they could be fired at will because they are not protected by the civil service merit system.
The employees were summoned to the county jail, stripped of their guns and badges, and given photocopied letters of dismissal. They were then required to leave in vans usually used to transport prisoners as snipers stood guard on the roof.
Eldrin Bell, another newly elected black official in the town, filed the injunction against the fired officers losing their jobs. He disagrees with the sheriff.
Hill was a police detective and state legislator before being elected sheriff in July of 2004.
Retired Superior Court Judge Ben Miller will hear the case on the legality of the firings Jan. 14 in Clayton Superior Court.