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Lawrence FBI probe's origin may stay mystery

By Nancy Glasscock 340-2443

MOULTON — The origin of an FBI investigation of Lawrence County Commission offices, including the seizure of an apparent bugging system, could remain a mystery for months or longer.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Harwell G. Davis III placed the search warrant proceeding under seal Tuesday, prohibiting public access to the affidavit, the search warrant and the return of the search warrant.

The commission scheduled a meeting for 7 a.m. Monday to discuss the investigation, Commissioner Alma Whitlow said.

Whitlow and commissioners Mose Jones Jr., John Terry and Harold LouAllen signed a letter to Chairman Bradley Cross requesting a special meeting after Cross refused to schedule an emergency meeting earlier this week.

Cross said Tuesday he wasn't opposed to having a special meeting. He said he didn't call the Monday meeting, and that the meeting was scheduled at the request of commissioners.

"If they want to have a special meeting, I don't have a problem with that," he said.

According to Alabama's open meeting law, a chairman is the only member of a county commission who can waive the required five-day public notice and call an emergency meeting. The majority of the commission can call a special meeting but is required by law to give five days public notice before the meeting.

Cross said he will say why he refused to call an emergency meeting at the meeting set for Monday.

"There was a good reason," he said.

Cross said he would also disclose during the next meeting why he thinks the FBI's investigation of the commission offices last week was blown out of proportion, but wouldn't give the reason behind his opinion Tuesday.

The Daily reported Tuesday that Cross was reportedly in the commission office briefly with the door closed Monday.

"That's as far from the truth as the east is from the west," Cross said.

Cross said Tuesday he was in an employee's office, but not with the door closed.

A source agreed Cross was in the office, but not behind a closed door.

FBI agents seized a clock radio purchased from the Alabama Spy Shop from the commission office. Agents seized the following items from Assistant County Administrator Karen Harrison's office: seven video cassettes, a digital display 12-channel receiver, one power supply, audio visual cables, coaxial cables and a receipt and purchase order from Alabama Spy Shop.

The bugging system had reportedly been in place since 2004.

Cross said he didn't know about the bugging system or why someone would install it.

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