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SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2007
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Hard drive review set in spy case
Lawrence sheriff has copies made of data in 4 commission computers

By Nancy Glasscock
nglasscock@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

MOULTON — A computer technician copied the hard drives of four computers in the County Commission offices for inspection, Sheriff Gene Mitchell said Friday.

The Lawrence County Commission on Thursday approved motions by Commissioner Harold LouAllen to let Mitchell check Courthouse Annex III for illegal monitoring devices, to change the locks on the commission building doors and to allow the sheriff to check the hard drives of computers in the commission offices.

Mitchell said investigators aren't looking for anything specific on the computers.

"We're just following what the commission asked us to do," he said. "Anytime you change employees, you like to let the new employees have a fresh starting spot."

Mitchell said the hard drives were copied at the commission building, and the process wouldn't disrupt county operations. He said a sweep of the commission building for listening devices would be finished in about two days.

The commission also unanimously approved Thursday a motion by Commissioner Alma Whitlow to place county administrators Linda Harville and Karen Harrison on administrative leave. Whitlow's motion specified that Harrison be placed on leave without pay while the county begins terminating her contract.

Harrison resigned as assistant county administrator Sept. 11, but withdrew that resignation Monday.

Harville told commissioners Thursday was her last day at work.

Neither Harville nor Harrison worked Friday, LouAllen said.

LouAllen said Friday he doesn't foresee any problems keeping the county's books in the absence of the two administrators. With Harrison and Harville no longer in office, two other staff members are left to manage the county's daily operations, he said.

"I think things will still run normally with the two that we have here now, and we may have someone else come in temporarily," he said.

Beronica Warren is the county's payroll clerk, and Peggy Dawson is an accountant. Dawson was hired to replace Harrison as assistant county administrator when Harrison was set to become the next county administrator.

The commission approved a motion Monday to advertise for the county administrator's job.

The commission meeting Thursday was one of two emergency meetings called this week stemming from an FBI investigation of the commission offices. FBI agents seized a clock radio with a hidden camera from the commission office and other equipment from an illegal monitoring system in Harrison's office.

Whitlow said Thursday that Harrison and Harville haven't denied they installed the monitoring system.

Tornado? Not exactly?

Commission Chairman Bradley Cross said he wants to clarify a statement he made in Friday's edition of The Daily comparing the actions of the commission to a tornado.

"I was comparing the force of the tornado, certainly not loss of life, to the impact that the commission has had on our county," he said.

"If I have offended anyone, please accept my apology."

LouAllen said current commissioners are cleaning up past damages.

"The tornado that Mr. Cross was talking about has been going now for eight years," he said. "This present commission is here to clean up the mess that was caused by it."

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