Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Lawrence County Commissioner Harold LouAllen, above left, leaves after an interview with an FBI agent. County Commission Chairman Bradley Cross, above right, at the courthouse annex building on Alabama 157 in Moulton.
FBI interviews Lawrence officials, seizes equipment
Apparent bugging system confiscated
By Nancy Glasscock
email@example.com · 340-2443
MOULTON — The FBI interviewed Lawrence County Commissioners and county administrators Friday, a day after investigators searched the commission offices and seized an apparent bugging system that might have been in place since 2004.
Neither agents nor county officials would say why there was reportedly a bugging system in the government offices or who was using it. No one would name the target or targets of the investigation.
Spy clock seized?
According to federal documents, agents seized a GE clock radio from the commission review office. The office is a private office used by all commissioners. Agents seized the following items from Assistant County Administrator Karen Harrison's office during execution of a search warrant Thursday night: seven videocassettes, a digital display 12-channel receiver, one power supply, audio visual cables, coaxial cable, a receipt and county purchase order to Alabama Spy Shop for the clock radio.
District 2 Commissioner John Terry said the FBI contacted him Thursday night and asked him to open the commission building. Agent Charles W. Wingo secured the warrant from a federal magistrate in Huntsville at 3:15 p.m. Thursday.
"It was either I could let them in or they would get in," Terry said. "I was surprised by some of the things they found."
He said he believes the agents contacted him to accept the search warrant because he was the easiest commissioner to reach.
Several FBI agents interviewed each commissioner, Harrison, and County Administrator Linda Harville separately. District 5 commissioner Alma Whitlow was out of town Friday, Terry said.
Harrison said she was authorized to make purchases for the county without permission from Harville or the commission, but wouldn't say how much she paid for the clock radio, and refused to comment further.
A spokesperson for Alabama Spy Shop in Madison said the price for a G.E. clock radio that doubles as a hidden camera varies from $184 for a basic black and white model up to $750 for a wireless model with a built-in camera, digital video recorder and a secure digital memory card.
The business advertises on its Web site a fully functional Phillips clock radio with a hidden camera and transmitter inside for $399.95. The picture is transmitted to a receiver 75-100 feet away then taped onto a VCR.
On Tuesday, Harrison submitted her resignation as assistant county administrator effective Sept. 25. Commissioners offered her Harville's job Monday but did not give her the $62,000 she wanted. On Thursday, she said she was resigning because she did not need the stress.
Chairman Bradley Cross said Friday morning he didn't know why the FBI was interviewing commissioners, but said later that day the matter was "blown out of proportion."
He said there will be no meeting to remove Harrison. He said she will "work up until her last day."
Cross declined to comment further.
Commissioner Mose Jones and Harold LouAllen said they did not know why agents wanted to talk to them.
FBI agent Dan Girsch said an investigation is on going and declined to disclose additional details of the search or interviews with county officials.
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