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Partial probe of e-mail OK with officials
Commissioners want
closure in investigation

By Sheryl Marsh 340-2437

Checking computer e-mails of some Morgan County elected officials and department heads and failing to look at others is not a fairness issue and doesn't bother them, said a County Commission majority.

They said they want closure of an e-mail investigation that started more than a month ago.

A computer specialist is processing information he copied from hard drives of most of the county's elected officials and department heads.

The commission's failure Dec. 28 to seek a court order to get the computer hard drives of Sheriff Greg Bartlett and Revenue Commissioner Amanda Scott removed them from the probe.

"He (the computer specialist) is supposed to process what he has and give us a report back," said District 2 Commissioner Ken Livingston. "I'm not looking at it as fairness or not. I'm looking at the fact that we asked them to cooperate and they did."

Livingston was referring to elected officials such as License Commissioner Sue Roan, her deputy clerk and the commissioners who willingly gave up their hard drives.

Scott locked her hard drive in a vault and she would not let the computer specialist copy her chief clerk's hard drive, saying that they hold sensitive information. She also changed the locks on her doors. Bartlett sent a letter saying the specialist could not have his hard drive, and could not look at his or his employees' e-mails on the county's main server.

District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark agreed with Livingston.

"I'm comfortable with it," Clark said. "I volunteered mine as did many others, and we'll come up with a plan to try to eliminate this type of problem in the future."

Waste of money?

District 4 Commissioner Stacy George, who headed the investigation as chairman pro tem, said it isn't fair and because of the exclusion of some officials, the investigation was a waste of taxpayers' money.

"We paid the Huntsville law firm $7,000 for doing nothing but sending letters back and forth between commissioners trying to get a consensus about what to investigate," George said.

"The majority chose not to investigate everybody and that's responsible for the waste."

District 3 Commissioner Kevin Murphy, who sided with Livingston and Clark against getting a court order, could not be reached for comment.

During Thursday's meeting with members of the Republican Executive Committee in the audience, Murphy said he wanted the investigation to end so the county could focus on more positive matters.

Livingston said the computer specialist might have a report from the information he copied by the end of this week.

The specialist could review e-mails on the main server at the courthouse, but he has to run them through a system, which separates photographs from text, George said.

"Commissioners, however, could look at the e-mails on the server," said George. "You could look at them one at a time."

The commissioners looked at e-mails of then-Human Resources Director Jack Underwood and fired him.

An e-mail showing naked women that Underwood sent to Chairman John Glasscock, who forwarded it to a Decatur official, started the probe, after a Channel 19 reporter aired it.

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