No Decision Yet on Special Panel for Clayton Sheriff

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill took office this week despite 32 pending felony charges. In the meantime, Governor Nathan Deal still hasn’t said whether he plans to appoint a panel to decide whether or not to suspend Hill.

In a statement, Deal’s office says it will release communications on the case in the near future. The statement goes on to say the governor plans to take a close look at the case, because it is “unique in its circumstances.”

But because of requirements under state law, it’s not matter of if but when the panel will be formed according to WABE Legal analyst Page Pate. In Hill’s case, Pate says the panel would consist of two other sheriffs and the Georgia Attorney General. After its formation, the panel would have 14 days make a recommendation to the governor unless an extension is granted. And Pate says state law requires the panel to focus on one central issue when making its decision.

“If the commission determines that the indictment relates to and adversely affects the administration of the office, then the commission shall recommend that the official should be suspended. They have the discretion to make that factual determination of whether this indictment affects the ability of him to do his job.”

Last year, Hill was indicted on 37 counts for crimes he allegedly committed while in office.  The counts included theft, making false statements and racketeering. But Hill maintains his innocence and his attorneys say the criminal investigation against him only began after he announced he would run for office against former County sheriff Kem Kimbrough. The court of appeals is scheduled to hear arguments in the case in February. As for the panel, it can only make recommendations. Governor Deal would have the final say.