Clayton resident asks for mandamus on sheriff
5:32 pm, January 4th, 2013
A Clayton County resident filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in Fulton County Superior Court today, seeking to compel Gov. Nathan Deal to appoint a review commission that would consider suspending Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill until the criminal charges against him are resolved.
Atlanta attorney Page Pate filed the writ petition on behalf of Clayton resident James Buckman, challenging Deal’s decision not to appoint a panel and claiming that in doing so, the governor has refused to execute his statutory obligations. Buckman is a community activist and one of the founders of the Lake Spivey Civic Association, Pate said.
Deal announced Thursday that he would not seek to suspend Hill, who was re-elected as Clayton’s sheriff even though he has been charged with multiple felonies, including racketeering.
The governor said he decided not to appoint a panel to consider Hill’s suspension after evaluating state law and the facts in the case. State law allows the governor to appoint a three-member panel to investigate indicted public officials.
A press release from Deal’s office said that he “concluded that the law outlining the procedures for the suspension of public officials under indictment applies only to officials indicted while holding their elected office.”
Hill was not the county sheriff when he was indicted.
The writ petition—which has been assigned to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kelly Amanda Lee—claims that Deal’s interpretation of the statute “forges a loophole for indicted public officials that strains a plain reading of the statute and is inconsistent with the legislative intent of the Georgia State Legislature.”
It also asserts that “a defect of legal justice would ensue from a failure of Governor Deal to appoint a review commission” and that, absent the writ petition, “There is no other specific legal remedy at hand.”
The writ petition asserts that the purpose of a review commission under state law is to determine whether the indictment “relates to and adversely affects the administration of the office of the indicted public official and that the rights and interests of the public are adversely affected.” If the commission makes such a finding, it “shall recommend that the public official be suspended from office” and that the governor may suspend the indicted official “immediately and without further action pending the final disposition of the case.”
The writ petition also asserts that the governor “shall … appoint a review commission” upon receiving a copy of the indictment.
Pate said today that filing a petition for the writ of mandamus was the only option remaining in seeking Hill’s suspension. “It’s the only thing we can do,” he said. “You can ask the governor to look at it again, please. But the sheriff association has already asked him to do that.
Hill was first elected as Clayton’s sheriff in 2004 but he lost a re-election bid in 2008. Last year a Clayton County grand jury indicted Hill on 37 counts, including racketeering, making a false statement, theft by taking, violating his oath of office and influencing a witness – all related to his term as sheriff. Although the charges are pending, Hill ran again for sheriff last year, defeating incumbent sheriff Kem Kimbrough, who had beaten Hill in 2008.
Hill’s lawyer, Jonesboro attorney Steven Frey, could not be reached for comment.
Deal spokeswoman Stephanie Mayfield referred questions to state Attorney General Sam Olens. Olens’ spokeswoman, Lauren Kane said, “We have not reviewed the lawsuit so we have no comment.”