E-mail case dismissed
Circuit judge apparently closes the book on Morgan Courthouse scandal
By Sheryl Marsh
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2437
It appears that Morgan County Circuit Judge Steve Haddock put to rest the last phase of the courthouse e-mail scandal by dismissing a lawsuit District 4 Commissioner Stacy George filed.
It's possible that George could keep the case open through appealing Haddock's decision to the state Court of Civil Appeals.
George filed the litigation in January against Chairman John Glasscock, District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark and David Hannah, the county's data processing manager.
George alleged that the men kept him from viewing e-mail on the main server. He attempted to look at e-mails on the server after the commission majority ended an investigation of inappropriate e-mail on county computers.
The investigation stemmed from e-mails of naked women found on Glasscock's computer and that of the fired human resources director.
In his ruling issued Thursday, Haddock said the defendants do not manage or control the offices or records of other county officials, and for that reason they wouldn't know what was public record out of 350,000 e-mails stored on the server.
"Each of these elected or appointed officials is the legal custodian of records, papers, documents, files and correspondence, including e-mail, sent to or from his or her office, is the public officer to whom a demand for inspection must be submitted and is responsible for determining whether a record or e-mail constitutes a public record or is exempt from public disclosure," Haddock states in the ruling.
Prior to Glasscock getting the commission to adopt an electronic records policy, he had control over such records and could order Hannah to release them. The policy placed electronic records under custody of department heads and officials.
Haddock cited Supreme Court rulings mostly regarding written public records, but he did not review Morgan electronic records to determine what, if any could be released.
He stated in the ruling that he feels that "it is not in the public's interest for the court to authorize an unreasonable and undue interference with the business of local government on the scale and of the magnitude demanded by the plaintiff."
Haddock said George and his attorney Hubert Porter did not present sufficient evidence to show "a valid legal basis for his claim for injunctive relief against the defendants."
He dismissed the case against Glasscock, Clark and Hannah with prejudice. He also taxed George with court costs that Circuit Clerk John Pat Orr said amounts to $332.
Also, Porter had filed a second motion asking Haddock to recuse himself from the case and the judge denied that motion and any other petitions the lawyer filed in the case.
George said he's not pleased with the ruling.
"I'm disappointed in the judicial system of Morgan County," George said. "I think it's a sad day when a sitting judge would participate in withholding public records from citizens. We will probably appeal it to the Court of Civil Appeals. We gave him two opportunities to recuse himself and he refused to do so."
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