Her decision was in response to a letter from the state’s chief law enforcement certification agency questioning Hill’s certification as a peace officer.
The issue was brought to the forefront regarding Hill following his Superior Court indictment last year on charges that included racketeering.
Ken Vance, executive director of the Peace Officers Standards and Training, better known as POST, said Georgia law gives a sheriff six months following taking his oath of office to become registered, through their organization, as a certified peace officer.
The deadline for Hill to have gained such certification with POST expired July 1.
Although Hill could not be reached for comment, the judge’s decision pleased his attorney, Steve Frey, who said Hill’s certification will remain suspended until the case against the sheriff is resolved.
“It has been our position all along that Sheriff Hill’s certification was not involved,” Frey said.
“We believe the motives of the Peace Officers Standards and Training with regard to Sheriff Hill’s certification were misguided at best and malicious at worst,” Frey said.
According to Vance, his interpretation of the law means that without such certification as a peace officer, Hill does not meet the legal requirements to be sheriff and, as such, is not legally allowed to make arrests, a key element of the job of sheriff.
However, Ferguson declined to make that judgment, saying she did not have the jurisdiction to do so.
If Ferguson had accepted Vance’s interpretation of the certification law, she could have removed Hill from office.
However, Vance said, even if Hill is found innocent of the criminal charges, POST plans to “independently investigate” the allegations facing Hill to see if any further action can be legally taken against him with regard to his certification.
Despite the nature of the POST charges, Frey said Hill remains “resilient and focused on doing the job of sheriff that Clayton County residents elected him to do.”
“With his trial set to begin Aug. 5, Sheriff Hill, is focused on that and will continue to be prepared for the start of the trial,” Frey added.
“This will be settled following the trail and we are confident the sheriff will be found innocent of all charges,” Frey added.