Victor Hill’s lawyer: activist can’t force commission
3:22 pm, January 7th, 2013
Clayton Sheriff Victor Hill’s attorney said Monday that he believes that efforts by a Clayton County neighborhood activist to force Governor Nathan Deal to appoint a commission to consider suspending Hill are misplaced and that state law, in Hill’s case, does not apply.
“To try to apply it to Victor Hill would mean you would take exception to the literal meaning of the statute,” said attorney Steven Frey.
On Friday, Atlanta attorney Page Pate filed the a petition for a writ of mandamus in Fulton County Superior Court on behalf of Clayton resident James Buckman. The petition challenged the governor’s decision not to appoint a commission and claimed that Deal had refused to execute his statutory obligations. Buckman is one of the founders of the Lake Spivey Civic Association, Pate said.
The special commission, if Deal had named one, would have considered whether to suspend Hill, who was indicted last February on multiple charges, including racketeering, stemming from his first term as sheriff. When Hill was indicted, he was a civilian, having been defeated for re-election in 2008.
Hill is awaiting trial while pretrial matters in the case are on appeal. But while under indictment, he won his campaign to regain the sheriff’s post against Kem Kimbrough, who had defeated Hill in 2008.
Deal’s office announced last week that he had 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.
Frey said that the state law in question concerned only public officials who were indicted while in office. “The intent of the statute… is to protect the public from a public official who is indicted during the course of his public duties,” Frey said. “That does not apply here.”
Because Hill was indicted while he was a private citizen and voted into office by county residents despite the indictment, “The citizens need no protection because they chose to elect him despite his being indicted,” Frey explained.
“The public need not be protected. They made an informed decision.”
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.”
And, he added, “If you tinker with this statute so as to make it apply to Victor Hill, all that does is give a zealous district attorney that much more power.”
Frey also called Hill’s indictment politically motivated and without merit. Hill was not indicted, he said, “until two months after he announces he is going to run again.”