Miller Co. sheriff may sue county commissioners -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Miller Co. sheriff may sue county commissioners

By LeiLani Golden - bio | email

COLQUITT, GA (WALB) – There's a struggle for power in Miller County.

The Sheriff says county commissioners are overstepping their bounds and interfering with his department. The county says the sheriff isn't following county procedures. And their dispute may end up in a courtroom.

This conflict has actually been stirring for nearly a year now. The sheriff says the commissioners are overstepping their boundaries and he thinks they're even breaking the law.

For nearly a year, the Miller County sheriff's department says they've been bullied by the county commissioners.

"Miller County commissioners wanted the constitutional officers to opt in to a county personnel system," explained Bill Stone, the attorney for the Miller County Constitutional officers. "The officers refused and the county commissioners set out to coerce or force the Miller county constitutional officers to ask to be included in a commissioner's personnel system."

By Georgia law, the officers are not required to participate in that system. In fact, one of the only authorities the county commissioners have over the officers is setting their budget.

"They have the right to set amount of money at disposal of officers but the decision on what to spend it on is solely at the discretion of the constitutional officers," Stone clarified.

Conflict came to a head when the board of commissioners fired a deputy sheriff (Melanie Williams) working as a resource officer at the Miller County public schools.

"She's employed by the sheriff, not the Board of Education or the county commissioners. So neither one of the entities have the authority to terminate her employment."

After the firing of that deputy, Sheriff Buddy Glass sought out advice from the Georgia Association of Sheriffs, who referred him to the Law Offices of Boone & Stone in Blakely.

Legal fees for the constitutional officers have already cost the taxpayers of Miller county nearly $13,000. Stone expects it'll only get more expensive.

"It's very wasteful to go to court. It's going to cost taxpayers a lot of money because they'll have to pay lawyers on both sides."

If the case goes to court, the outcome will be decided by a jury of Miller county residents, some of which, may not be too happy with the way their tax dollars are being spent because of this fiasco.

County Attorney Mike O'Quinn released a statement today saying county commissioners want the constitutional officers to do three things:

1. Stay within their budgets

2. Follow payroll procedures that are consistent with other county departments and which adhere to legal requirements

3. Follow purchase order procedures recommended by the county auditor that will safeguard against mistakes or fraud.

Both sides say they want to settle these issues out of court, but are ready for a trial if necessary.


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