The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says it found no evidence that former City Administrator Fred Russell violated any laws regarding his hard drive and its missing files.
The agency determined that “no evidence existed to substantiate a criminal violation of the law” after reviewing its findings with the district attorney’s office, according to a statement from GBI Special Agent in Charge Pat Morgan on Monday. The GBI is no longer involved in the case.
Commissioner Marion Williams, whose request to see Russell’s work gave rise to the preliminary review, said he accepts the decision but still wants to know where the files are.
“If they’re not on the computer, where are they?” he asked.
On Feb. 11, Williams submitted a written request to Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree seeking a preliminary investigation into the disappearance of official city records from the hard drive of Russell’s city-owned computer.
In the letter, Williams reminded Roundtree that city records are covered under Georgia’s open record laws and record retention schedules for county government. Georgia laws govern the retention of government documents, including e-mails, based on their content.
Roundtree responded Feb. 18, saying he would forward Williams’ request to the GBI and the secretary of state’s office.
Morgan said the GBI’s Thomson post received the request Feb. 24.
Russell served as city administrator for nearly a decade until the Augusta Commission fired him without cause Dec. 9, effective at the end of last year.
After much debate, Williams’ request to access Russell’s computer files was granted, but the city law department provided only a small number of documents in response.
“Any time you tamper with the records of the city, that’s a violation,” Williams said. “We’re at the mercy of the department heads now; they can do everything they want.”
Interim City Administrator and Information Technology Director Tameka Allen has denied that IT staff helped delete Russell’s files from his computer or the city network.
A local television reporter has said Russell told him, off camera, that Russell deleted the files.
Staff Writer Susan McCord contributed to this story.