Daily photo by Gary Lloyd|
Revenue Commissioner Amanda Scott waits as David Hannah, Morgan County data processing manager, searches for her computer's hard drive, which she locked in the office's vault before he got there. Hannah was denied access to the drive, which he was to claim for evaluation in an ongoing e-mail investigation.
Commissioner locks up hard drive; sheriff denies access
Apparently trying to avoid compromising sensitive information in e-mail probe
By Sheryl Marsh
Morgan County's e-mail investigation ran into roadblocks Thursday when Revenue Commissioner Amanda Scott locked her computer's hard drive in a vault, and Sheriff Greg Bartlett denied access to his hard drive.
A flurry of letters from other officials and lawyers slowed progress of a computer specialist copying hard drives, which contain all the data stored on a given computer. The commission wants him to match the information on the hard drives to information on the main server. That will show if erasures have occurred.
Probate Judge Bobby Day's attorney delivered a letter to County Commission Chairman pro tem Stacy George stating that Day did not mind the expert looking at e-mails on the main server but not on hard drives in the probate office.
Day said he is not trying to hamper the investigation, but certain records, such as adoptions, are not public.
"I don't have any objection to them looking at the e-mail server and getting whatever they need," Day said. "I don't want to put a damper on their investigation, but I've got a legal duty to protect these records."
Also, Adonis Bailey, chairman of the Board of Registrars, sent George a letter stating the expert could look at information from that office on the server but not office hard drives. She said she must protect voters' personal information, such as Social Security numbers.
Although she didn't send a letter, Scott would not give her hard drive to data processing employees.
George directed county enforcement officers to get the hard drive. He called a maintenance employee to accompany them to unlock Scott's office door.
As they prepared to go to her office, Scott and her chief clerk, Renee Fields, entered the commission office. Scott said she did not mind the computer specialist looking at her hard drive in her office but she did not want it copied and removed from the courthouse.
She said personal information such as credit card numbers are on taxpayer records.
George told her she would be treated like everyone else. He then told the men to retrieve the county's equipment. Scott told the men the hard drive was not in her office.
When they got downstairs, the maintenance worker unlocked the door to Scott's office. She and Fields were inside, but her hard drive was missing. Scott said it was locked in a vault. She told The Daily that Fields' hard drive was non-accessible also.
She said when people pay taxes with credit cards that information is on their records and she is protecting it. A Revenue Department employee said taxpayers cannot make credit card payments at the office. Payments only can be made online. The employee said they never see credit card numbers because a third-party company handles transactions.
An attempt to reconcile the information failed. A man who answered the telephone at Scott's home hung up when he learned a Daily reporter wanted to speak with Scott.
Data processing manager David Hannah and an employee took License Commissioner Sue Baker Roan's and Deputy Commissioner Patsy Dougherty's hard drives without incident.
Dougherty said personal information is on some of the employees' computers, but not on her or Roan's computers. Dougherty said a third party company handles their online tax payments.
"We don't have a problem with it at all," Dougherty said.
When Hannah and others went to get Bartlett's hard drive at the new jail complex, a sign was posted prohibiting news cameras from the second floor where Bartlett's office is located. Also Bartlett had a jailer, Matthew Cooper, stop a Daily photographer from going upstairs. He had deputy Roger Smallwood deny a Daily reporter access to Bartlett's office.
Smallwood told Hannah that the sheriff would not release the hard drive.
Earlier, Bartlett sent a letter telling George that the computer specialist could not look at his or any of his employees' e-mails on hard drives or the county's main computer server.
Despite Bailey's letter, an enforcement officer and data processing employees retrieved three hard drives of her office's while she was out of the office.
George said he plans to get Scott's and Bartlett's hard drives.
"I am going to do whatever it takes to get Ms. Scott's hard drive and the sheriff's," George said. "Ms. Scott doesn't have a leg to stand on at all. I don't think she realizes how serious it is for her to be hiding county equipment."
George said the sheriff's reason for denying access has changed from the need to protect homeland security information to protecting National Crime Information Center data that could be on hard drives. George said a list of the sheriff's employees was attached to the letter and it included clerks and secretaries.
The county's Emergency Management Agency director, Eddie Hicks, has homeland security information, but he is not bucking the investigation, said George.
"It looks suspicious when Mr. Hicks, who has all kinds of security information, is not worried about compromising information and the sheriff is," George said.
George said the computer expert will begin analyzing the hard drives today. He copied the commissioners' and the chairman's hard drives Thursday before moving to other offices.
A racy e-mail that the county's ex-human resources director Jack Underwood sent to Chairman John Glasscock, who forwarded it to Mayor Don Kyle, prompted the commission to call for an investigation. George is in charge of the investigation as chairman pro tem.
An attempt to exclude elected officials, department heads and political appointees from the investigation failed when the commissioners voted unanimously to include them.
The e-mail investigation began after someone leaked a racy e-mail to a Channel 19 reporter who aired it. The commission looked at Underwood's e-mails on the server and fired him. Underwood did not appeal the firing. He wrote the county's policy on computer use.
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