Williams says he has data from Russell's computer

Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams said Tuesday that he has obtained a copy of information on city Administrator Fred Russell's computer.

Mr. Williams filed a Freedom of Information request last week, and it remains under review by an outside attorney hired by the commission. However, Mr. Williams now said he doesn't really need it.

"I've got my information already," he said. "I have not exposed it. I have not looked into it yet. Right now we're wanting to make sure we're on legal ground."

Both Mr. Russell and Commissioner Joe Bowles said if the information was copied without having been "scrubbed" for personnel and legal matters, somebody broke the law. An administrator's computer would contain information that is confidential, and its release without permission could set up the city for a big lawsuit, Mr. Bowles said.

Mr. Williams said that's why he has avoided looking at the file. He said he certainly doesn't want to be censured by his colleagues as Commissioner Calvin Holland was last week.

"We're wanting to make sure we're on legal ground," he said. "I would not like to lose this one like they tried to get Calvin Holland. In fact, Calvin requested something he didn't get. So I want to make sure."

Commissioners censured Mr. Holland on a 6-3 vote last week for asking an assistant city information technology director for the hard drive from Mr. Russell's computer while Mr. Russell was on vacation.

Mr. Williams said the information was provided to him by "a professional."

"I had to go outside to do some things," he said.

"Just bear with me a little while," he said. "I'm making sure I'm within my rights as an elected official. I can't go into anybody's personal stuff, but anything that belongs to the city, and it belongs to the government, I can see."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.