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E-mail lawsuit challenged
Morgan County officials want public records suit dismissed

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

Morgan County Commission Chairman John Glasscock, District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark and Data Processing Manager David Hannah want a lawsuit against them that involves public records to go away.

Huntsville attorney Julian Butler filed a motion asking Circuit Judge Steve Haddock to dismiss the litigation that District 4 Commissioner Stacy George filed against the trio in January.

Butler’s motion claims that a complaint was not filed with the court. George alleges that Glasscock, Hannah and Clark prohibited him from viewing e-mails on the county’s main server.

Haddock issued an order on Butler’s motion giving Butler and George’s attorney Hubert Porter until Friday to submit case law concerning the issue of whether George’s petition is sufficient for the litigation or if a complaint should have been filed also.

Haddock issued a restraining order last month in the case to keep the defendants from destroying the public electronic records.

Frequent court filings and letters to the FBI and ABI asking for an investigation surround the e-mail scandal that began in November.

County Attorney Bill Shinn has filed an answer in an unrelated case where Sheriff Greg Bartlett filed a petition against all of the County Commission members to keep them from releasing his e-mail records.

Bartlett’s attorneys, Wesley Lavender and Donald Rhea, filed the petition in February after learning that The Daily requested screen captures of his and a couple of employees’ e-mail. He asked Haddock to enjoin Glasscock and the other commissioners from releasing his records.

The judge issued the restraining order and Glasscock did not release Bartlett’s records.

Later, after the commission adopted a policy to govern releasing e-mail for public view, The Daily asked Bartlett for the information. He released two e-mail headers of his and three each for two employees.

Shinn states that as fact in the answer he filed Monday in Circuit Court.

“The sheriff has responded to the Decatur Daily in such manner as the sheriff deemed appropriate,” Shinn’s answer states.

Shinn also mentions the county’s recently passed e-mail policy and attached a copy of it to the answer.

Also, Shinn stated that the commissioners “admit that the sheriff controls the release of electronic communications of the sheriff’s office which are stored on the server and that the County Commission cannot release such communications without the consent of the sheriff or as requested by legal process.”

George, who is also named a defendant in the sheriff’s lawsuit, said he does not agree with that statement.

In other counties the commission chairmen say they are in charge of computer records in data processing departments and written records kept in their offices.

Glasscock shifted his responsibility when breaking a tie to adopt the policy, which placed elected officials in charge of their office e-mails on the server.

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