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E-mails missing

Sheriff questions system’s integrity; Glasscock says criminal probe possible

By Sheryl Marsh · 340-2437

Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett is questioning the integrity of the county’s e-mail server, saying that some e-mails generated by his office appear to be missing.

Bartlett sent commission Chairman John Glasscock a letter Thursday asking him to investigate.

Glasscock said an investigation by the ABI or the FBI may be necessary.

“If there seems to be something criminally wrong, we will call for a criminal investigation immediately,” said Glasscock. “We’ll call the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and the FBI.”

The Daily gave Bartlett a written request more than a week ago for certain e-mail screen-capture printouts of his and two employees, a jailer and a clerk.

Bartlett gave The Daily copies of the screens Wednesday that showed him having sent only two e-mails and each of his employees having sent three between April and June 14 of 2006. The Daily requested screen captures between those dates. One of the employees sent two Microsoft test messages to himself seconds apart. The Daily did not request actual e-mails.

The Daily responded with a letter asking for clarification.

Bartlett sent another letter Thursday stating: “The e-mails that are provided are those which I believe are responsive under the Open Records Act to your request. This is not to say that there are not other e-mails that are reflected on the computers requested, however those e-mails, in my judgment, are not responsive to your request.”

One of Bartlett’s attorney, Wesley Lavender, sent a letter to the newspaper regarding the sheriff’s e-mails Thursday. That followed a call to his office. Bartlett’s Gadsden attorney, Donald Rhea, called an editor to talk about the situation. Later Bartlett sent the letter about missing e-mails to Glasscock.

The sheriff’s letter states: “In an effort to comply with the request of The Daily, I undertook to review specific e-mails that were provided to me by David Hannah (data processing manager).

Bartlett said in the letter that he looked at the e-mail server Monday.

“As I was preparing my response to The Daily, I thought it appropriate to return to the courthouse and again review the e-mails to ensure that my response was consistent with the Open Records Act. I came to find that some of the e-mails that had previously been listed as attributable to the computers that were requested had been dropped in the interim.”

Bartlett further told Glasscock, “I am sure you can appreciate the appearance that dropped e-mails gives not only to me, but could give to the unknowing or the unsuspecting public.”

He asked Glasscock to investigate the hard drive, software and other equipment for storing e-mails.

Glasscock said Friday that he put Hannah on the probe right away, however, Hannah was not working Friday, Glasscock said.

Too many e-mails?

Here’s what Glasscock said Hannah told him:

“He told me he believes it’s a software problem. He thinks Outlook Express cannot handle all the e-mails. He said there are more e-mails on the server than Outlook Express can handle.”

Bartlett’s letter reflects the same information.

“I have been told that because of enormous number of e-mails that are on the server that it is common or certainly not unusual that e-mails be dropped,” the sheriff wrote. “However, I would like for someone who has an extensive understanding and knowledge of the mechanical workings of the server to verify and ensure that the reason that the e-mails no longer exist is because of an overload in the system and not for some other reason.”

Although the sheriff said e-mails may have fallen off the server, there’s still a copy of a backup disk that Hannah took to the Sheriff’s Department for safekeeping in December. At the time, Hannah took it there with the approval of District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark.

Glasscock said he supposes that the disk is still at the jail.

“To my knowledge, it’s still locked up in a safe in the sheriff’s office,” Glasscock said.

Bartlett did not return phone calls Friday.

Glasscock said he does not know where the backup disk is. A probate clerk said weeks ago that a data processing employee, Ricky Brewer, removed it from a vault in the probate office.

Glasscock, Clark and Hannah are under a restraining order not to destroy the records.

It is against the law to tamper with or destroy public records.

Circuit Judge Steve Haddock issued the order earlier this month in a lawsuit District 4 Commissioner Stacy George filed against the three men. George said Clark directed Hannah not to allow him to view e-mails on the county server; and that Glasscock, who was in charge of the electronic records did not intervene.

Clark also gave Hannah approval in December to take the server disk to the Sheriff’s Department.

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