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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2006
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Forensic expert probes e-mail
Computer specialist in charge of investigation targeting elected officials, department heads, others

By Sheryl Marsh
smarsh@decaturdaily.com 340-2437

An investigation of Morgan County e-mails is now in the hands of a forensic computer specialist after the County Commission placed on hold the law firm it hired to head the probe.

The investigation will definitely target all elected officials, department heads and appointed employees.

In addition, other employees will be randomly chosen for the investigation.

During a meeting Tuesday, the commission unanimously approved a resolution that outlined the scope of the investigation.

In his role as chairman pro tem, District 4 Commissioner Stacy George introduced the resolution based on recommendations from the Wilmer and Lee law firm of Huntsville.

George explained that the probe list had been revised to the commission's satisfaction.

One item on the list from the law firm stated that the investigation would include "imaging for the presence of pornography, inappropriate e-mail and excessive Internet usage sent by random sample of Morgan County users (excluding elected officials, department heads and political appointees) through the county servers over a defined period of time."

The commission changed it to read: "Imaging computer hard drives and comparing data to e-mail server to see if the hard drive has been deleted or tampered with. The following people will be examined: All elected officials, department heads and political appointees using county computers. Furthermore, all county employees are subject to a random search of their e-mails."

All county equipment was bought and is maintained with taxpayers' money.

George noted that the law firm has completed its portion of the investigation, which included imaging and examination of the fired human resources director's hard drive.

The commission fired the director after he sent a racy e-mail to Chairman John Glasscock, who forwarded it to Decatur Mayor Don Kyle, who said he told Glasscock not to send another. Lawyers have not disclosed findings from the forensic examination of the director's hard drive.

George said because the firm finished its part, there's no need to continue to pay $150 per hour to attorneys.

"That's why we hired them separately," George said. "Now we move on to the investigation that'll cost $95 an hour."

District 2 Commissioner Ken Livingston echoed George, saying it's logical to let the computer specialist go solo for now. Livingston said if the commission gets to a point and needs the law firm, they would contact the attorneys again.

District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark was concerned about time and cost. George explained that it took the computer specialist only minutes to image the ex-director's hard drive and that the overall job shouldn't cost more than $5,500.

The commissioner said he sent notice to the law firm Tuesday that its work is finished for now. He said examination of computers should begin this week. The commission's resolution was adopted on a motion by Livingston and a second by District 3 Commissioner Kevin Murphy.

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