Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams gains access to former administrator's files

Augusta Commission member Marion Williams is getting his request to peruse numerous files from former Administrator Fred Russell’s computer.

After extensive discussion Tuesday about whether Williams’ Jan. 7 request required a commission vote and what files he wanted, the Augusta Commission agreed that no commission action was needed, and city staff said they’ll proceed with reviewing and printing the files for Williams.

Williams, who helped lead a similar, but unsuccessful 2007 effort to review Russell’s hard drive, won’t say what in particular he’s looking for.

Russell, who was fired Dec. 9 without any allegations of criminal wrongdoing, is widely reported to be planning a run for Augusta mayor but hasn’t announced his intentions.

In the end, Williams agreed to limit his request to the past five years of correspondence and documents, rather than all files from Russell’s 10-year tenure as administrator, to save time. He said he did not want employee health records or private data such as Social Security numbers, all of which General Counsel An­drew MacKenzie said would have to be redacted anyway.

The commission has no specific policy on the allocation of staff resources toward fulfilling commissioner requests, but Williams’ request is resource-intensive because of the volume of records sought, MacKenzie said.

But, “procedurally, everybody up here has asked for something and has received it, and it took no motion to get it done,” such as recent requests for employee salary data, Commissioner Alvin Mason said.

“What I don’t want us to do is pick and choose depending on the message or the messenger,” said Mason, who is seeking the mayor’s seat.

Williams, who has angered his colleagues with numerous requests and questions about all aspects of city government, questioned why he hadn’t already received at least part of the files.

“This is the type ruling that I am talking about, it’s finding a way not to do something,” he said.

Interim City Ad­min­is­trator Tameka Allen, who also serves as Information Tech­nology director, said copying the computer’s hard drive was easy and had already been done, while e-mails are saved on the server.
Commissioner Bill Lockett questioned why Williams continued such a “trivial” pursuit.

“We should concentrate on those things that could benefit the people of Augusta-Richmond County,” Lockett said.

“I think if Mr. Williams could narrow the scope of what it is we’re looking for,” Commissioner Donnie Smith said. “If we’ve got to go through 10 years’ worth of e-mails and personnel files, that is a significant amount of money.”

At that, Williams said he would cut his request to the past five years of documents, e-mails and other correspondence, and Allen said she would proceed with fulfilling the request.

“I expect to have the information when the information becomes available,” Williams said.

Williams continues push for Russell's hard drive
Williams says he has data from Russell's computer

ALSO ON TUESDAY

Other action taken by the Augusta Commission included:

• Approval of a zoning change allowing an extended stay hotel on Marks Church Road, despite the protest of a nearby Kingston subdivision homeowner who said drainage in the area is poor

• Delaying voting on proposed changes to the administrator’s job description, to be used in a search for Fred Russell’s replacement, after several commissioners said they expected to review the changes in committee

• Receiving as information rather than voting on Commissioner Marion Williams’ call for a “no confidence” vote on the city law office’s performance

• Referring Commis-sioner Joe Jackson’s request to relinquish commission oversight over Augusta Regional Airport to a Monday committee meeting

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