Fired Clayton County deputies close to getting settlement

JONESBORO, Ga. (AP) — Clayton County Commissioners have approved a settlement with sheriff’s department employees whom Sheriff Victor Hill fired on his first day in office.

The settlement, which the county commission approved Tuesday, will likely be about $7 million for the 34 workers, their lead attorney Harlan Miller said. But county officials declined to discuss financial terms of the settlement.

The money will come from a $5 million county insurance fund and likely from money collected from Fulton County for inmates housed in the Clayton County Jail.

County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said no Clayton County taxpayer money would pay for the settlement.

Miller said he would still have to read the ‘‘fine print’’ before approving the deal, but said he believes there is nothing in the details could derail the settlement.

‘‘Hopefully, after 2 years, this matter will die a slow death,’’ Miller said.

The January 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.