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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2006
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Morgan server bypassed
Use of personal e-mail accounts
makes hard-drive exams essential

By Sheryl Marsh
smarsh@decaturdaily.com 340-2437

Elected officials and other employees used their personal Internet accounts to bypass the main server, said Morgan County Commission Chairman Pro Tem Stacy George, making it essential to examine hard drives on county computers.

George said he issued a directive this week to data processing employees to block usage of Web mail on county computers.

County records show that officials, including Revenue Commissioner Amanda Scott and some employees, used county computers to access America On Line, an Internet site offering Web-based e-mail accounts.

George said that he learned from data processing employees about the bypassing.

"After an initial investigation, it is obvious that some elected officials, department heads, political appointees and employees are bypassing our county e-mail server by utilizing their personal accounts on AOL," George said. "By blocking Web mail, this directs all e-mail through the main server. The computer expert conducting the investigation recommended blocking Web mail usage."

Computer records from data processing show that Scott accessed AOL 49 times during June 1-9.

One of her employees accessed the Web mail 16 times between June 6 and 9; and Scott's chief clerk did so nine times between June 1 and 9, according to records.

Records show that Sheriff Greg Bartlett accessed AOL twice June 6, the day of the primary elections.

Wade Morgan of Alabama Forensic Data Services Inc., hired by the commission to examine county computers, confirmed that Web-based e-mail is not routed to the county server.

"It (county server) only handles e-mails to the Morgan County domain," said Morgan. "Web mail such as Yahoo and AOL will not be on the server."

Morgan said that's one of the reasons it's necessary that he examines hard drives, but there are others.

"Our focal point is the presence of pornography, and it can get on computers in ways other than e-mail," Morgan said. "Someone could go to a Web site or bring it in on a floppy disc, a thumb drive or USB drive and those would be on the hard drive, not on the server."

The investigation is being held up by Scott and Bartlett's refusal to give up their hard drives for examination.

Scott locked hers in a vault last week and had locks on her doors changed.

Bartlett's Gadsden attorney sent a letter saying that no one could look at his hard drive nor his or his employees' e-mails on the server. Bartlett had a deputy block access to his office.

Sensitive information

Both officials say they have sensitive information on their hard drives.

The County Commission plans to consider getting a court order to take the hard drives when it meets Dec. 28.

Morgan said he must have the hard drives "to accomplish the goal of the commission's resolution."

The investigation of all elected officials, political appointees and department heads stems from a racy e-mail that the county's ex-human resources director sent to Chairman John Glasscock, who forwarded it to Decatur Mayor Don Kyle.

Kyle said he told the chairman not to send another.

Someone leaked the e-mail to a WHNT-TV 19 reporter who aired it and that started the commission's probe by a unanimous vote.

George is in charge of the investigation as pro tem.

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