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The Lawrence County Commission chamber remains empty despite calls for an emergency meeting by commissioners to discuss the FBI probe.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
The Lawrence County Commission chamber remains empty despite calls for an emergency meeting by commissioners to discuss the FBI probe.

Eavesdropping in Lawrence County?
Bugged about FBI probe
Most commissioners want meeting to discuss investigation

By Nancy Glasscock
nglasscock@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

MOULTON — Lawrence County Commission Chairman Bradley Cross refused to call an emergency meeting Monday, against the wishes of a majority of the commission, commissioners said.

District 2 commissioner John Terry said the majority wanted to hold an emergency meeting to discuss an FBI investigation of the commission offices, after FBI agents seized an apparent bugging system late last week.

"He didn't really think there was any sense in having a meeting," Terry said.

Terry said Friday he was surprised by the discovery of the bugging system and didn't know why someone would want to spy on county officials.

Several FBI agents interviewed County Administrator Linda Harville, Assistant County Administrator Karen Harrison, and four commissioners at the commission building Friday after seizing a clock radio bought at the Alabama Spy Shop from the commission office Thursday night.

Spying in room?

The bugged office is a private room used by all commissioners. FBI agents also seized the following items from Harrison's office Thursday night: seven video cassettes, a digital display 12-channel receiver, one power supply, audio-visual cables, coaxial cable and a receipt and purchase order from Alabama Spy Shop for the clock radio.

Friday, Cross said he didn't know why the FBI was interviewing commissioners and that the matter had been "blown out of proportion."

Attempts to reach Cross for comment Monday were unsuccessful. He was reportedly in the commission office briefly with the office door closed.

Harrison and Harville were not in their offices Monday afternoon. Harville was in her office earlier in the day.

District 1 Commissioner Mose Jones Jr. said he doesn't know why someone would bug the commission office "unless they're trying to bribe or set up a commissioner."

"Why would they go and do such an evil, conniving act?" he asked.

Jones said he told Cross the commission should discuss the investigation in public, but Cross refused to call a meeting. Jones formerly served as commission chairman.

"If I had been the chairman and the majority of the commission wanted an emergency meeting called, I'd have called one because there's nothing to hide," he said. "That's why I want the meeting called, so all the commissioners can be in there, so we can sit down and talk about it in a public meeting. ... So far, (Cross) has refused to call an emergency meeting. I don't know why he's refused."

District 5 Commissioner Alma Whitlow, who was out of town last week, said she was shocked to learn the commission office was under investigation by the FBI. Whitlow said she wants to hold a commission meeting to discuss the investigation, but that Cross was opposed to holding a meeting.

"He didn't think we should have a meeting," Whitlow said. "He said the FBI was investigating and we didn't need to do anything right now."

Whitlow said she doesn't know why anyone would want to place a hidden camera in the commission office.

"I'd like to know more about the situation, and I don't know if there is anymore at this point," she said. "I feel like we probably should have a meeting at some point."

According to Alabama Open Meeting laws for county commissions, a commission chairman is the only member of the commission who can waive the required five-day notice and call an emergency meeting.

Monday, commissioners were preparing a written request to hold a special meeting.

"There's really not a provision in the law for the members of the body to call an emergency meeting," said Sonny Brasfield, assistant executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.

"The members can call a special meeting, but an emergency meeting must be called by the chairman."

Cecil Caine, the county's attorney, said Monday afternoon that Cross probably wouldn't call an emergency meeting.

"Based on my conversations with the chairman, I don't think he's going to," Caine said.

Terry said late Monday the commission will hold a special meeting later.

"We're trying to get that pulled together tonight," he said. "We've got the vote to have a meeting, now we have to wait five days."

Jones said the main reason he wants to hold a meeting is to hear all sides of the issue.

"That is the reason I want to talk to the parties or whoever put it in there and find out why they wanted to do it, and why they didn't contact me or any other commissioner and let us know they'd put something in there. That, to me, is conniving and evil."

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