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A county 'on remote control'
Lawrence administrators placed on leave; commissioners give sheriff control of computers

By Nancy Glasscock 340-2443

MOULTON — Lawrence County Commission Chairman Bradley Cross said recent decisions by county commissioners have damaged the county more than a tornado.

Thursday, the commission unanimously approved a motion to allow Sheriff Gene Mitchell to take control of the computers in the commission offices, a motion to change the locks on the doors of the commission building, and a motion to place county administrators Linda Harville and Karen Harrison on administrative leave.

Cross doesn't vote at commission meetings except to break ties.

"I want the citizens of Lawrence County to know I played no part in the disruption of the functions of this county," Cross said.

"The commissioners have damaged this county more than the tornado that came through in 1973. It looks like they've put it on remote control. I hope it works."

Commissioner Harold LouAllen made the motion recommending that the sheriff check Courthouse Annex III for other monitoring devices in an effort to make a "fresh start" after the FBI seized an apparent bugging system Sept. 13. The FBI seized a clock radio purchased from the Alabama Spy Shop from the commission office and other equipment from Harrison's office.

LouAllen also made the motion to change locks on the doors at the commission building.

Commissioner Alma Whitlow made the motion to place Harville and Harrison on administrative leave. Whitlow's motion specified that Harrison go on leave with no pay, and that the county begin terminating her contract. However, the motion didn't specify whether Harville's leave would be without pay.

Harville is retiring Oct. 1, but some commissioners said she told them her last day at work was Thursday.

The commission's attorney, Cecil Caine, said Harrison requested the commission reconsider her contract to allow her to receive certain employee retirement benefits she wouldn't receive if her resignation was upheld. Harrison's Birmingham attorney, Jim Sturdivant, said Harrison would agree to be placed on leave with no pay after two weeks vacation.

Whitlow said Harville and Harrison don't deny placing a monitoring system in the commission office without the commissioners' knowledge. Harrison resigned as assistant county administrator Sept. 11, but gave commissioners a letter Monday stating she wanted to withdraw her resignation.

Cross said earlier this week that the commission violated the county's personnel policy by approving Harrison's resignation Monday. An employee has 14 days after they resign to rescind a resignation, he said.

Caine said if the commission had voted again to accept Harrison's resignation, and Harrison then filed a lawsuit, the county probably would win.

"But there's no guarantee," he said.

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