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Courthouse e-mail probe at standstill

By Sheryl Marsh 340-2437

Morgan County taxpayers may never know what's on computers of elected officials who refused to give them up for a forensics examination.

District 4 Commissioner Stacy George needs the County Commission's approval to seek a court order to take the computer hard drives. But, he said, he doesn't believe he has their support.

Revenue Commissioner Amanda Scott locked her computer hard drive in her vault and Sheriff Greg Bartlett refused to release his hard drive last week. Scott also changed the locks on her office doors at a cost of $892.

Bartlett and Scott's actions halted the investigation and it remains at a standstill.

Commissioners are seeking to check hard drives of elected officials, political appointees and department heads against the county's main server for inappropriate e-mails, possibly pornography. They want to match the hard drives against the server to ensure no one has erased material.

George said Monday that he tried to get an emergency commission meeting called to determine what commissioners wanted to do next, but the county's attorney, Bill Shinn, advised that neither the new door locks nor the two officials' refusal to cooperate warranted such a meeting.

Also, he said, Shinn told him Friday that he could not file a petition asking for a court order to get Scott's and Bartlett's hard drives.

He said Shinn told him that he needs the full commission's approval.

Commissioners Jeff Clark and Ken Livingston said they would like to know more about the situation and will discuss it at the next commission meeting Dec. 28.

George said he will have an item on next week's meeting agenda to ask for a court order to get Bartlett's and Scott's hard drives.

George sent Commission Chairman John Glasscock a memorandum Monday asking him to change the locks on Scott's door.

Glasscock said he is not involved in the investigation, so he forwarded George's memo to each commissioner. The commission unanimously voted to conduct the investigation that George has headed as chairman pro tem. Glasscock said he sent an attached memo telling the commissioners that Scott plans to pay for the locks out of her discretionary fund and not from the General Fund.

Like the General Fund, however, taxpayers' money makes up Scott's discretionary fund.

"I've done all I can do," George said. "I'm not in charge of the courthouse, the chairman is and it is his duty to do something about her changing the locks."

Although information can be reviewed on the county's main server at the courthouse, George said Bartlett sent a letter saying no one could look at his e-mail or his employees' e-mail on the server. George said the computer specialist cannot look at anybody's e-mail until Bartlett's information is separated.

Commissioners and the data processing people have looked on the server at least once. That's when they reviewed e-mails of Jack Underwood whom they fired for sending pictures of nude women to Glasscock, who forwarded the e-mail to Decatur Mayor Don Kyle.

Kyle said he told Glasscock not to send any more.

George said at the time that data processing employees showed Underwood's e-mails from the server on a screen during an executive session. Afterward, the commission voted unanimously to fire Underwood.

The computer specialist has copies of hard drives of all elected officials and department heads except Bartlett, Scott and Probate Judge Bobby Day.

George said the computer specialist, who is a Hoover police officer, is not processing the information he copied last week.

"At this point he's not doing anything, but he will come here and talk to Mr. Shinn and tell him what he plans to do with the hard drive information," George said. "Since Ms. Scott and the sheriff each has an attorney, Mr. Shinn will relay the information to their attorneys. Hopefully, after that they will give up their hard drives willingly and we won't have to get a court order."

A meeting between the computer specialist and Shinn will cost taxpayers $95 per hour.

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