Originally created 07/17/04

Sheriff to take paid leave for rest of '04



ATLANTA - Fulton County Sheriff Jackie Barrett will take paid leave until the end of the year amid criticism of her handling of the county's overcrowded jail and an investigation into $7.2 million of public money she invested, her attorneys said Friday.

Sheriff Barrett will take leave starting Aug. 1, said her civil attorney, Ted Lackland. She is not seeking re-election this year, and her term ends Dec. 31.

The sheriff was not resigning, but instead stepping aside - taking advantage of about 120 days of vacation and other accrued leave time that would last until December, said Manny Arora, Sheriff Barrett's criminal attorney.

The sheriff was taking leave because she was sidetracked from her work by the jail controversy and felt she would be ineffective if she remained in office, he said.

The announcement came two weeks after the governor appointed a panel to determine whether Sheriff Barrett should be suspended because of the investments. The Georgia Sheriff's Association sent a letter to Gov. Sonny Perdue asking that he begin the proceedings.

Because Sheriff Barrett has removed herself from the job, the governor's investigation panel now serves no purpose, Mr. Arora told reporters.

Sheriff Barrett would not comment Friday, and she was informing her staff about her decision.

It was not immediately clear whether a replacement sheriff would be appointed.

Sheriff Barrett believes she hasn't been treated fairly, Mr. Lackland said. He said she's been taking the blame for conditions in the jail she can't control. Overcrowding and poor conditions at the jail have in large part been caused by extra inmates taken on from the state, Mr. Lackland said.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob appointed a former jail administrator of the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta to take over control of the jail from Sheriff Barrett.

Judge Shoob acted in a lawsuit filed last month by the Southern Center for Human Rights, which claims conditions at the jail are inhumane and unsafe for inmates and staff. The jail was designed for about 1,400 inmates but averages more than 3,000.