Lawyer: Case Against Ga. Sheriff Over Firings Is Settled

August 10, 2007

An attorney representing a group of deputies who sued after they were fired when a new sheriff took office in Clayton County says the case has been settled.

Harlan Miller, attorney for the employees, said the settlement had been paid in full.

Michael Smith, the staff attorney for Clayton County, confirmed that the county had paid the settlement. According to Smith, more than $4.9 million was deposited into the registry of the U.S. District Court from the remaining money in the county’s insurance policy to pay for the majority of the settlement.

A remaining $1.5 million was paid directly from the county, bringing the total settlement to about $6.5 million.

Miller also said the federal case had been dismissed and that several “miscellaneous cases,” which had been filed against Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill, had been dropped as a part of the settlement.

“This calamity has now come to an end,” Miller said Tuesday. “The settlement has been agreed to. It’s been signed off on. Money has been paid. People are in their new positions.”

Sheriff Hill, who fired the workers in 2005 on his first day in office, said the settlement was a “time of celebration” for the department.

“This whole thing slowed up what we were trying to do,” Hill said. “We’re going to be going at 200 miles per hour now. It’s like a different atmosphere.”

The Jan. 3, 2005, firing of the workers gained national attention.

Deputies summoned the employees to the jail that morning and took their guns and badges. Sheriff’s office snipers stood guard on the jail’s roof as the 27 fired workers were escorted out. Another seven workers later joined the lawsuit, claiming wrongful treatment by Sheriff Hill.

The next day, Clayton County Superior Court Judge Stephen Boswell ruled the employees were fired without cause and they went back to work about two weeks later.

Hill, Clayton County’s first black sheriff, has said he inherited a “dysfunctional organization” and the firings were part of a plan to clean up the office. But the workers – most of whom are white – sued the county, claiming they were fired because of their race or because they supported Hill’s opponent in the 2004 sheriff’s race.

Information from: Clayton News Daily,

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