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Manager can't recall if sheriff had e-mails now invisible

By Sheryl Marsh
smarsh@decaturdaily.com 340-2437

Morgan County Data Processing Manager David Hannah said he does not recall if Sheriff Greg Bartlett had e-mails on the county server between April 1 and June 14, 2006, that are now invisible because of an overloaded computer system.

On Tuesday, Hannah said messages on the server were not deleted, but simply were not displaying in Outlook Express.

According to the user manual for the e-mail software the county uses, those e-mails are stored on the server as individual files. Someone could search those e-mails using, for instance, Microsoft Desktop Search, which is a free application. Searchers can find any text information in the message, including sender, content, date, header or recipient.

The Daily requested e-mail headers for Bartlett and two of his employees during that period.

Bartlett gave The Daily screen captures of headers that showed two e-mails that he sent and three each that his two employees sent during that period.

The dates on Bartlett's e-mail headers are May 15 and June 5. Hannah did not explain why there's a gap.

The Daily secured 230 e-mail headers pertaining to County Commission Chairman John Glasscock for the same period — April 1 and June 14. They are in daily sequence.

Hannah said Wednesday that e-mails that are not displaying on the server are throughout the system and not limited to one user.

The sheriff expressed concern in a letter to Glasscock last week that some e-mails were missing after he checked the server.

Bartlett said in his letter that he returned to the courthouse a second time to look at the e-mails on the main server.

"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 stated in the letter.

He said he was told that the e-mails could be dropping off due to the high number on the server.

The sheriff's return to the courthouse came after The Daily questioned his release of only two e-mail headers.

Hannah explained during a commission meeting Tuesday that the e-mails were not missing or dropping off, but they are not displaying due to a full mail store.

He did not explain why he reported that the number dropped last week from 499,000 to 434,000 and rose again to more than 500,000 earlier this week.

The newspaper received a letter from Bartlett on Feb. 21 stating:

"Attached, please find the 'headers' for e-mails that are subject to review under the Open Records Act, Ala. Code 41-13-1 (Code, 1975)." He released two headers.

The newspaper's second query brought another response Feb. 22 after his office called to request copies of the e-mail headers the sheriff had included in his first response. The Feb. 22 response reads:

"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."

The newspaper did not request e-mail content, only headers that give the names of the sender, the subject, the recipient and the date and time sent.

Based on Bartlett's letters and Hannah's memory, gaps in the dates could be attributed to invisible e-mails or Bartlett's belief that the public has a right to see only the two e-mail headers he released to the newspaper. Scott Hopkin contributed to this article.

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