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Lawrence releases partial list
State law says records, interviews must be open to public; commissioners divided on issue

By Nancy Glasscock
nglasscock@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

MOULTON — Lawrence County Commissioner Alma Whitlow released a partial list of applicants for county administrator Thursday.

Whitlow said that out of a total of about 35 applicants, some had requested their names not be released to the media and she felt she should honor those requests.

She said she has been granted no administrative authority from the commission to withhold the complete list of names.

She has been working in the commission building recently to help the understaffed office, she said.

Whitlow said she waited to release the names until she'd made contact with every person who applied. Applicants were continuing to phone the commission office Thursday afternoon.

"I truly feel like I need to ask every one of them," Whitlow said Wednesday.

According to opinions from the state attorney general, applications are public record.

"Alabama Public Access Laws," a manual compiled by the attorney general and the Alabama Press Association, says that "the term 'public records' shall include all written, typed or printed books, papers, letters, documents and maps made or received in pursuance of law by the public officers of the state, counties, municipalities and other subdivisions of government in the transactions of public business ..."

The commission will meet at 9 a.m. Friday to interview the candidates. Whitlow said the interviews might not be open to the public, but Commissioners John Terry and Mose Jones have said the interviews would be public.

The interviews must be held in public, according to the Alabama sunshine law.

Public officials who violate open meeting laws are responsible for paying their personal attorneys' fees when fighting court cases regarding the laws.

Applicants for county administrator include the following 15, whose names had been released by late Thursday afternoon:

Robin Frost Thompson, Moulton; Jeannia J. Little, Moulton; Royce G. Melson, Moulton; Patricia Hitt, Town Creek; Peggy Lanier King, Hillsboro; Robbi C. Ligon, Moulton; Andrea Morgan, Huntsville; Jackie Peek, Moulton; Veronica Farris Sparks, Moulton; Lindy R. Garrett, Moulton; Alicia C. Smith, Moulton; Kimberly Hinsley, Moulton; Robert Chitwood, Moulton; Ronald E. Clark, Decatur; Steve Eason, Florence.

The contracts of former administrator Linda Harville and former assistant administrator Karen Harrison were terminated last month after commissioners said the two admitted they installed an illegal monitoring system in the commission office.

The FBI seized the system and interviewed county officials last month.

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