Having security officers escort terminated employees off the premises is one
thing, but this is ridiculous.
On his first day on the job Monday, the new sheriff of Clayton County, Georgia,
called 27 employees into his office, stripped them of their badges, and fired
them. Then he had rooftop snipers stand guard as they were escorted out the
The sheriff, Victor Hill, defended the firings and the way he carried them
out, citing the assassination of Sheriff Derwin Brown in neighboring DeKalb
County in 2000. Brown had been gunned down in the driveway of his home three
days before he was to be sworn in. Former sheriff Sidney Dorsey was found guilty
of plotting to kill him and sentenced to life in prison.
"Derwin Brown sent out letters to 25 to 30 people letting them know they
would not be reappointed when he took office," Hill observed in an interview
with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The firings made by Hill this week had a racial overtone, according to the
Associated Press. Hill was among a spate of black candidates elected last year
in the county once dominated by rural whites. The employees he fired included
four of the highest-ranking officers, all of them white. Hill told the Journal-Constitution
that their replacements would be black.
But another of the newly elected black officials, county commission Chairman
Eldrin Bell, called the move illegal and filed for a restraining order. A judge
granted it, saying it appeared the employees were terminated without cause and
in violation of the county's civil service rules.
Hill sees things differently. He maintained in the Journal-Constitution
interview that he has the right to shake up the department in whatever way he
feels necessary. He said he fired the employees to "maintain the integrity
of the department."
"A lot of people are under the impression that the sheriff's office is
under civil service laws," he said. "But my research shows the employees
work at the pleasure of the sheriff."
Under the restraining order, however, the fired employees work at the pleasure
of the judge, at least for 30 days.
Associated Press, via CNN.com