BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams filed an appeal of Judge Stone’s mandamus ruling.
Sheriff Williams released the following statement:
I have filed a brief, by and through our attorneys to the Georgia Court of Appeals in my capacity as Burke County Sheriff. The brief is regarding the Mandamus Action we originally filed in November 2021, in the Burke County Superior Court seeking a declaratory judgment and an order directing the Burke County Board of Commissioners to turn over the control of payroll administration to my office. The Commission filed a counterclaim for mandamus seeking an order directing the Sheriff to comply with Burke County purchasing procedures.
The Burke County Superior Court denied both petitions for mandamus and entered a declaratory judgment on January 25, 2022. We believe The Superior Court committed reversible error by denying our petition and declaring that it is “within the Board of Commissioners’ sound discretion to continue administering payroll for” the Sheriff’s employees.
Georgia law is summarized as follows: (1) Sheriffs have inherently broad powers except as limited by statutes, which are strictly construed against infringing on those powers. (2) The Commission has no inherent powers, and power must be specifically granted by statutes, which are strictly construed against such power. (3) Sheriffs operate independent of Commission control and authority, subject only to budgetary limitations.
The Sheriff’s right to control the payroll for his employees is founded in the common law and Georgia Constitution, which makes clear that the Sheriff’s powers are inherently broad, while the Commission’s powers are inherently limited. The Commission is not entitled to dictate how funds allocated to the Sheriff are to be used. Yet, by requiring control over the payroll of the Sheriff’s employees, the Commission is able to do just that. For example, in order to grant promotions or administer nighttime differential and overtime pay, the Sheriff must seek approval from the Commission, which approval it has historically withheld. This is precisely the type of control that Georgia law has clearly and expressly prohibited the Commission from exercising.
The absence of a statute on this specific issue means that the Sheriff has inherently power to maintain control of his payroll, and the Commission has no inherent power to exclude him from it. The Superior Court thus erred in finding that the Sheriff has no legal right to administer the payroll of his employees, and it erred in failing to enter an order requiring the Commission to cede that contractual right to the Sheriff.Sheriff Alfonzo Williams