Lawrence spy clock meeting Monday
By Nancy Glasscock
MOULTON — Lawrence County commissioners said they aren’t sure what to expect from a special meeting Monday to discuss an FBI investigation of the commission offices.
“I don’t know what we’re going to get from it,” Chairman Bradley Cross said.
Commissioners Mose Jones Jr., Harold LouAllen, Alma Whitlow and John Terry each said they want to talk with the entire commission, but said they don’t know what, if any action would be taken Monday.
“I feel like we need to let the people be aware of what’s happened,” Whitlow said. “There are so many tales circulating that it’s not even funny, some that I wouldn’t even dare touch.”
Cross, who initially didn’t want to call a meeting, agreed to meet after Jones, LouAllen, Whitlow and Terry petitioned him by letter.
The commission called the meeting for 7 a.m. at Courthouse Annex III. This comes after FBI agents interviewed commissioners Sept. 14 and seized an apparent bugging system from the commission office and Assistant County Administrator Karen Harrison’s office Sept. 13.
County Administrator Linda Harville wouldn’t say whether she would attend the meeting, and declined to comment on the investigation.
When asked if she would attend the meeting, Harrison said she has been instructed by her attorney, Jim Sturdivant of Birmingham, to defer all questions about the investigation to him.
Sturdivant said he didn’t know if Harrison would attend the meeting. He said he is waiting for a response from the U.S. attorney’s office in Huntsville regarding whether any action will be taken following seizure of the bugging system.
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.
“I understand that there was a federal search warrant of some sort and I now understand that the affidavit that was filed in order to obtain the search warrant has now been sealed, so I don’t know what’s in the affidavit,” Sturdivant said.
“At this point, that’s really all I can do is wait on some sort of indication from authorities regarding this whole situation, including whether or not (Harrison) is even involved in it.”
Among the items seized were a receipt and county purchase order for a clock radio from the Alabama Spy Shop. Harrison wouldn’t disclose the price of the clock. She said she didn’t need permission from Harville or the commission to make county purchases.
Purchase orders for the clock radio and other equipment seized by the FBI aren’t cited in findings of two audits of the County Commission from 2003 to 2005. The radio was reportedly purchased in 2004.
Audits for October 2003 to September 2004 and for October 2004 to September 2005 state that no material weaknesses in internal control over major programs were noted. The audit for October 2004 to September 2005 states the commission’s internal control over financial reporting was considered to determine auditing procedures and for the purpose of expressing opinions on financial statements, not to provide an opinion on internal control over financial reporting.
Harrison would have replaced Harville as county administrator after Harville retires Oct. 1. Harrison resigned from her position as assistant county administrator Sept. 10.
She said Sept. 13 she was retiring to avoid the stress of being the administrator, and because the commission offered her an annual salary of $60,000 — $2,000 less than what she wanted.
Harville’s annual salary was $62,000.
A spokesman for Retirement Systems of Alabama said Harrison had deferred retirement benefits to a Deferred Retirement Option Plan. Harrison’s last day of work is Tuesday, so her DROP plan will be terminated, and Harrison could begin receiving monthly retirement payments, the spokesman said.
When an employee participates in the DROP program, the monthly retirement allowance that would have been payable had the employee elected to retire and receive a retirement allowance will be paid into a DROP account and managed by the retirement system.
When the DROP participation period ends, the participant will receive a lump-sum payment from his or her DROP account equal to the payments made to the account plus interest.
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