Lanier County, Georgia - June 6, 2011
In a county of just 8,423 people, politics and personalities can be the name of the game.
And there's no covering-up the battle between commissioners and Lanier County Sheriff Nick Norton.
"Politics and crime enforcement have no business together," says resident Brad Jones.
47-year-old Norton says commissioners have been trying to control him since he took office in 2005.
"There's a very select few of very powerful people, who think they're powerful, that are going to have what they want, when they want it," says Norton.
For the next month, Norton says he's forced to furlough his 24 employees and cease all investigations.
A temporary shutdown of the Sheriff's office made for compelling reading in the local paper. Yet despite going over the budget, Norton says he hasn't broken any laws, and that puts the commissioners in a difficult position.
County commissioners accuse Norton of breaking Georgia law by exceeding his budget by more than $400,000. For fiscal year 2010, the Sheriff's Office was allotted $1,032,380 but ended up spending $1,462,017, according to a mandamus from Tim Tanner, attorney to the Lanier County Board of Commissioners.
They say Norton drastically goes over his budget every year.
"These are figures the tax brace of Lanier County cannot sustain," says Tanner. "And all we're asking him to do is to stay within his budget. The issue is not whether Sheriff Norton is a good sheriff or a bad sheriff."
When WCTV asked Norton whether there's a target on his back, he replied, "To remove me from office? Absolutely."
The Lanier County Sheriff's Office will be open from noon to 8 p.m. through the end of June.
Two deputies will be working and all calls will be re-routed to the 911 center.
When a new budget takes effect July 1, the Lanier County Sheriff's Office will likely resume normal operations.
For the next fiscal year, Norton has requested $1,716,209.11 from Lanier County, explained Tanner.
Commissioners will vote on it later this month.
[UPDATE] Lanier County, Georgia - June 6, 2011
Lanier County budget battles have forced its local sheriff's office to almost shutdown.
Join us tonight on Eyewitness News for more.
Lanier County, Georgia - June 3, 2011
The Lanier County Sheriff's Office says budget constraints by county commissioners will bring down operations, says Sheriff Nick Norton.
Deputies say all of the office's employees will be furloughed with just two deputies on duty everyday from noon to 8 p.m.
They say investigators will only respond to what they consider "life-threatening" emergencies.
All calls will be picked up by an answering machine and re-routed to the 911 center.