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Morgan e-mail probe is over

By Sheryl Marsh
smarsh@decaturdaily.com · 340-2437

One last attempt to broaden an investigation of inappropriate e-mails failed when the Morgan County Commission majority rejected District 4 Commissioner Stacy George’s motion to search the main server.

The probe ended Monday with computer forensics expert Wade Morgan of Homewood delivering a report of his findings from hard drives he examined.

A motion by George on Tuesday to allow Morgan to check e-mails on the server for two days failed after it did not receive a second.

District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark, District 3 Commissioner Kevin Murphy and District 2 Commissioner Ken Livingston remained silent.

“To me it’s not worth it,” said Livingston after Tuesday’s meeting. “We know that all of our leaders except two have clean computers. I just think we need to get on to other business.”

He referred to 17 officials and employees whose computers were checked.

Livingston said he is against looking at the server because County Attorney Bill Shinn advised the commission not to do so, after Sheriff Greg Bartlett’s attorney sent a letter asking them not to look at his e-mails on computer hard drives or the server. The lawyer’s letter, however, is not a court order and the commission does not have to grant the request.

Morgan’s report turned up what he called 50 “pornographic images” from Chairman John Glasscock’s computer hard drive and 98 from ex-human resources Jack Underwood’s hard drive.

Stood by decision

Livingston, Murphy and Clark stood by the decision they made Dec. 28 to end the investigation after Morgan completed examining hard drives of elected officials, political appointees and department heads who agreed to give him access to their computers.

Bartlett and Revenue Commissioner Amanda Scott were excluded because the commission majority opposed George’s request to get a court order to obtain their computer hard drives. Bartlett and Scott said they were protecting sensitive information. Probate Judge Bobby Day and Board of Registrars Chairwoman Adonis Bailey also cited sensitive information in letters opposing examination of their hard drives. They, too, were excluded.

Murphy said he doesn’t think it’s worth going to court to get hard drives or to be able to look at the server.

Clark questioned the legality of random checks of county computers during Tuesday’s meeting. He got a motion passed for Shinn to get an attorney general’s opinion about the matter. He said the opinion is needed for the commission to create new policy regarding communications.

Before George made a motion Tuesday for Morgan to check the server, he requested that the commission go into executive session. He said commissioners needed to discuss whether there would be legal issues involved in examining the server because Bartlett’s e-mails are stored there.

Records made public

During the executive session George said that Livingston told him that he shouldn’t have released a disc of the sexually explicit e-mails to the media.

George, who headed the investigation as chairman pro tem, honored media requests for copies of the public records Monday.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Livingston confirmed that he told George the records should not have been made public, although electronic records are treated the same as written documents under Alabama law.

“I didn’t see no need in releasing those videos,” said Livingston. “Everybody knew what we were looking for as far as pornography goes.”

Livingston said the disc might be a public record, but if Morgan had not sent the discs, there wouldn’t have been anything to release.

One of the 50 e-mails that Morgan found on Glasscock’s computer during the investigation was of a woman on her knees performing oral sex on a police officer. The caption read: “How to get out of a ticket.” A PowerPoint presentation of 40 e-mails included naked women in a mesh hammock in a beach setting and the buttocks of naked women pedaling bicycles.

‘No telling what’s there’

“That’s all the more reason we should be looking at more e-mails on the server,” George said. “There’s no telling what’s there.”

George’s time as chairman pro tem ended Tuesday.

On a rotational basis, the commission elected Clark chairman pro tem for one year on George’s motion; however, because the probe ended, there was no need for Glasscock to relinquish his chair to Clark, and he did not.

A racy e-mail showing naked women that Underwood forwarded to Glasscock started the probe when someone leaked it to a WHNT-TV 19 reporter after Glasscock blocked county officials’ and employees’ access to a Web site discussion forum.

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