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Fred Russell won't run for Augusta mayor

Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 9:06 AM
Last updated Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 9:56 PM
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Amid reports that he deleted a substantial number of files from his work computer and city servers before his termination took effect Jan. 1, former Augusta Administrator Fred Russell took his name out of the running for mayor Tuesday.

Ex-Administrator Fred Russell will not be on the ballot for the mayoral election. "He feels that was the best thing for Augusta," campaign chairman Duncan Johnson said.  FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
Ex-Administrator Fred Russell will not be on the ballot for the mayoral election. "He feels that was the best thing for Augusta," campaign chairman Duncan Johnson said.

In what was expected to be his official election announcement, Russell revealed on a WKSP-FM (96.3) morning broadcast that he would not be joining the race to become Augusta’s next mayor.

Russell, who has not returned messages seeking comment, has said little about why he was backing out of the May 20 election.

“He feels that was the best thing for Augusta, for him not to run,” said his campaign chairman, businessman Duncan Johnson. “I am proud that he chose what he thought was best for Augusta.”

Johnson, the president of Johnson Motor Co., said last week that because of Russell’s dozen years in city government, he was Augusta’s best hope for a mayor who could lead the city through growth expected
from Georgia Regents University and the incoming Army Cyber Command at Fort Gordon.

He declined to comment further about Russell’s decision not to run.

The Augusta Commission voted 7-0 on Dec. 9 to end Russell’s 10-year stint as administrator, citing the need for a change in direction but no criminal wrongdoing. He received a severance package of six months’ salary and benefits when the firing became effective Jan. 1.

On the eve of Russell’s announcement Tuesday, one of his harshest critics alleged that Russell – with help from city staff – had deleted numerous e-mails, documents and other correspondence from his work computer and even city servers, where e-mails are stored, before his last day Dec. 31.

Commissioner Marion Williams, who fought with his colleagues to get access to Rus­sell’s hard drive, said Monday that the city law department’s response late last week to his request for five years’ worth of records resulted in only a small stack of paper and no correspondence with the mayor, finance department or city attorney, and only “conversations between a couple of people,” despite laws that require local governments to keep digital and paper documents for a certain length of time, depending on their content.

After a lengthy session behind closed doors Tuesday in which longtime IT Director Tameka Allen, now the interim administrator, provided logs and other details about who had access to the files, Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson and Commissioner Donnie Smith said they had reason to believe a Monday report on WRDW that Russell had told a TV reporter he had deleted the files himself, even those stored on city servers, with no assistance from city staff.

“She gave reasons why nobody could have done it or could have assisted with it,” Smith said.

Williams said Allen reported that the department “did not understand” why the files would be missing, because they got them from General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie, who obtained them from the system at the time Williams first made his request.

Williams, who has never specified why he wanted the files, said he was seeking no personal information about Russell, only “government connections and stuff that could have been done.”

He said he was surprised Russell withdrew from the mayor’s race Tuesday.

“I was hoping he was going to run,” Williams said.

While the files might have been deleted, it’s unlikely they’re gone forever and Allen said the IT department is using various techniques to retrieve them, Smith said.

As long as the search requires no additional funds, Smith said he was OK with city staff attempting to unearth them, although without knowing what is missing, it is difficult to know whether laws were broken or civil penalties might apply, he said.

Smith, who was absent the day the commission fired Russell, said the incident might have been avoided if the commission hadn’t given Russell several weeks to remain on the job afterward.

IN THE RACE

One woman and three men have announced their candidacy for Augusta mayor. Qualifying is March 3-7.

• Helen Blocker-Adams

• Charles Cummings

• Hardie Davis

• Alvin Mason

IN OTHER BUSINESS

The Augusta Commission approved hiring Christman Co. for $744,084 in federal and local funds to serve as construction manager at-risk for construction of a new $9.5 million Augusta Public Transit Operations and Maintenance Facility at a city-owned property on Highway 56.

Commissioner questions about waste buried at the site, its potential for flooding and how Christman was selected for the job had delayed the decision for about a month. Once the facility is complete, city buses can relocate to the site and the city can sell its Fenwick Street bus barn to the MCG Foundation, which has stated plans to redevelop it and several adjoining properties along 15th Street as a shopping center.

– Susan McCord, staff writer

Comments (25) Add comment
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seenitB4
84282
Points
seenitB4 02/04/14 - 10:21 am
7
2
As the world turns

Surely there is more to this decision.

internationallyunknown
4008
Points
internationallyunknown 02/04/14 - 10:24 am
7
1
He never planned to run in

He never planned to run in the beginning. It was all for show.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 02/04/14 - 10:53 am
3
4
Unless he low-level formatted

Unless he low-level formatted the HD, and even if he did it's available, there are operations available that will disassemble the HDD and read all data that was ever stored on it. It's pricey but they can retrieve files that were "deleted". I could care less about all the Bruno Mars mp3's Russell had on his work pc. But the fun is in the chase so I say go for it.

bdouglas
4836
Points
bdouglas 02/04/14 - 10:54 am
5
2
I'm sure "Establishment" and

I'm sure "Establishment" and that "InvestedInAugusta" character will take full credit for derailing his run for mayor any minute now.

bdouglas
4836
Points
bdouglas 02/04/14 - 10:56 am
5
1
@David Parker

But it's pretty comical to read the media folks trying to report on all this "high tech" stuff. The story WRDW ran yesterday about confronting him in front of the Marble Palace was pretty funny with their comments on how he "deleted his hard drive".

Lorraine
140
Points
Lorraine 02/04/14 - 11:10 am
7
2
Files Deleted from Hard Drive

Why delete files from a hard drive when the computer is government property? Fred Russell is not above the law. This matter of importance must be pursued to find out the underlying motive for deleting files from a government computer. This former administrator's disregard for Georgia's law to retain files for a specified period of time smells fishy to me!

Lorraine
140
Points
Lorraine 02/04/14 - 11:16 am
5
1
Comical for Deleting Files?

David Parker why is it pretty comical about an administrator admitting to removing files from a government computer. Secondly, why is it pretty comical for an official to break the law?

corgimom
30081
Points
corgimom 02/04/14 - 11:42 am
6
2
Now I'm really wondering what

Now I'm really wondering what was deleted from that hard drive.

internationallyunknown
4008
Points
internationallyunknown 02/04/14 - 11:56 am
6
2
Those Good Ole Boys.

Once again, certain commissioners were right.

Marion knew he would/(did) delete the HD. Thats the reason why he KEPT FUSSING about it.

What is Russel hiding.....you would be shocked!

You can NEVER DELETE COMPUTER FILES, unless you totally destroy the HD. Files can always be found...if you are willing to pay and have the time/resources.

Certain commissioners are trying to expose the shenanigans of the AUGUSTA GOOD OLE BOY SYSTEM.

TrulyWorried
12978
Points
TrulyWorried 02/04/14 - 12:03 pm
4
1
Cost to retrieve information

from the Administrator's computer. Millions have been spent on non-essential things - thousands over thousands have been 'lost' - I am sure that the Commission will find enough money to get the information they want. Augusta never seizes to amaze me - one mess after another. Can't wait to see what Rick will have to say!

Just My Opinion
5438
Points
Just My Opinion 02/04/14 - 01:29 pm
4
1
Internationally, are you

Internationally, are you insinuating that only white guys can be part of the Good Ole Boy System? You don't think the black community has their own Good Ole Boys? I think we can agree that there are Good Ole Boys all over this city!

dichotomy
31692
Points
dichotomy 02/04/14 - 01:41 pm
7
1
Hell, I'm more interested in

Hell, I'm more interested in the hard drives of the ones still in office.

Now that we've opened up this can of worms, I want a forensic audit of everyone's hard drive. Let's start with the Sheriff, the folks in the Procurement Office, the acting Administrator, the Mayor, the Housing office, the Tax Commissioner, etc. etc.

If you are on a vendetta you can check Russell's hard drive.....if you are looking for corruption you need to check the ones of the folks still in office. Does "Skybox" and Marion have a county owned computer? Are they legally prevented from using private email accounts and equipment to conduct or discuss county business, campaign "donations", skybox tickets, taxpayer paid trips to Vegas? Or do you want to spend you time and money to go after someone who is already fired, gone, got away clean, made Williams do just what he wanted him to, chuckled all the way to the bank, and was smarter than all of the "let's get him" commissioners put together.

Lorraine
140
Points
Lorraine 02/04/14 - 02:10 pm
5
1
Deleting Files From Hard Drive

It is no surprise to me that some would believe that it is a waste of time to make an attempt to retrieve data from a government computer's hard drive that was purposely deleted by the former Administrator. Yeah, it is amazing that law abiding
citizens would embrace the thought that it is a waste of time to delve into the matter a bit further, especially since Fred Russell failed to uphold the law in this case.

triscuit
2952
Points
triscuit 02/04/14 - 01:47 pm
5
1
Good Ole Boys come in ALL

Good Ole Boys come in ALL colors....

Dixieman
13878
Points
Dixieman 02/04/14 - 02:37 pm
9
2
Rats!

ARC politics is not a serious occupation for grownups. It has entertainment value only. Dixieman's consistent advice is:

1. Move to Columbia County or Aiken, which have decent governments.
2. Buy a comfortable chair.
3. Microwave some popcorn.
4. Sit back and enjoy the show as the Krazy Klowns pile out of their tiny Klown Kars and race around the center ring, going after each other with seltzer bottles, horns, slapsticks, and lapel flowers that squirt water.

Alas, Fred's withdrawal means the spectacle will have fewer laughs.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 02/04/14 - 03:02 pm
3
4
@ Lorraine

I didn't say it was funny. But to answer your question anyway. It is hilarious for a government employee deleting jpegs of his dog Sparky in the snow or their favorite meme only to have so many call for an investigation, completely convinced there was a de facto file filled with evidence of wrongdoing or....gasp, illegality.

The guy was fired. If there were grounds for this type of shake-down, they would/should have done it behind the scenes before giving him the heave ho.

Again, retrieval of the data is simple. If the taxpayers want it enough, they can cough up the cheese to get the forensic. Be it files filled with Belieber propaganda or the missing link in the parking deck fiasco.

bdouglas
4836
Points
bdouglas 02/04/14 - 03:32 pm
3
4
@Lorraine

I'm the only one who said something was comical, but it clearly wasn't referencing the issue of Russell deleting files if you bothered to re-read it. I was referring to the WRDW reporters' clear lack of understanding of anything related to computers and being tasked to write a story related to it.

augustarookie
300
Points
augustarookie 02/04/14 - 03:57 pm
6
1
more worried

I am more concerned about how we could get Williams to keep current on his taxes. Supposedly, he is caught up but watch him closely in the future.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 02/04/14 - 04:00 pm
1
5
Scandalous

finally something with some juiciness.

internationallyunknown
4008
Points
internationallyunknown 02/04/14 - 04:16 pm
1
3
All colors, eh?

Uncle Toms, they are.

GnipGnop
11750
Points
GnipGnop 02/04/14 - 05:11 pm
12
2
Relax y'all

all he had on his HD was the true date of the South Augusta Five Guys grand opening.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 02/04/14 - 05:29 pm
2
1
N1 Gnip

N1 Gnip

dickworth1
954
Points
dickworth1 02/04/14 - 07:22 pm
4
2
against the law
Unpublished

Lorraine must have Obama mixed up with Russell. Talk about being above the law!

Pops
7543
Points
Pops 02/04/14 - 10:07 pm
7
2
It's really nothing to get excited about

even if they restore all the data, Williams could not read and comprehend 30% of it.......

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 02/05/14 - 07:58 am
0
0
Russell had intentions of
Unpublished

Russell had intentions of running for mayor- I don't believe that that was a show. Either something illegal turned up on the hard drive, criminal charges for "erasing" it are in the works, or someone has dug up some evidence and blackmailed him into dropping out of the mayoral race or option "D" - all of the above. I'd put money down that Marion has dug up something...

Little Lamb
44918
Points
Little Lamb 02/05/14 - 09:13 am
0
1
What's Best

I watched Channel 26 News at six last night, and they ran a story on Fred's announcement. He made a big deal about giving an “exclusive” news tip to Cher and Fatz on their radio program. And he repeated, over and over, that the reason he was not running was because his not being mayor was the best thing for Augusta.

Well, I must say I agree with Fred on that point.

Little Lamb
44918
Points
Little Lamb 02/05/14 - 09:23 am
1
0
Parse

Let's parse carefully this paragraph from Ms. McCord's story:

Williams said Allen reported that the department “did not understand” why the files would be missing, because they got them from General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie, who obtained them from the system at the time Williams first made his request.

Okay, IT Director Tameka Allen says that personnel in her own department have no clue why files are missing from a server — files that the city attorney obtained and gave to those same IT department personnel. That does not make sense. How does the city attorney obtain files from the IT department and then give those files back to IT department personnel?

I think Tameka Allen was trying to snow Marion Williams and Donnie Smith in hopes the whole thing will blow over. I hope these commissioners can see through her deception.

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