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Commission won't investigate deleted computer files

Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 9:03 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 1:01 AM
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A divided Augusta Commission voted down asking the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office to do “a preliminary investigation” into the disappearance of computer files used by former City Administrator Fred Russell.

Commissioner Marion Williams, whose request last month to see Russell’s work files from the last five years resulted in just a few items, called for the probe after a 90-minute closed-door legal session.

Williams said the commission discussed behind closed doors the “possibility of having a preliminary investigation done, just to see had the law been broken” when the files went missing. Georgia laws require the retention of numerous types of government records, including e-mails, depending on their subject matter.

“If there’s nothing wrong, then a preliminary investigation shouldn’t be a problem,” Williams said. “I’m surprised that the commission didn’t vote to go ahead and do it … What kind of message is that going to say to the rest of the employees?”

Williams said he remains convinced that Russell, whom the commission voted to fire Dec. 9, deleted the files before his termination became effective and had assistance from someone else.

Interim City Administrator Tameka Allen, who has served as the city’s Information Technology Director since 2001, maintains that IT staff had no involvement in deleting files.

She said Monday, however, that in-house efforts to retrieve any of the missing files from the system turned up nothing.

Staff members “have not been able to retrieve anything,” Allen said. They “couldn’t find any files that were deleted.”

Needing six votes to pass, Williams’ motion to request the investigation failed 4-3, with Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson and Commissioners Alvin Mason and Bill Fennoy voting in favor.

Commissioners Wayne Guilfoyle, Bill Lockett and Grady Smith were opposed, while Commissioners Donnie Smith, Mary Davis and Joe Jackson were absent when the vote was taken.

Mason said his vote “was not so much a vote for Fred, it is more to see how this could happen and to help prevent this in the future. If we have a flaw in IT, we need to know about it.”

Russell, a former Richmond, Va., deputy police chief, had been with Augusta government since 2002. The commission’s 7-0 vote to fire him included no reason and Russell left with a six-month severance package.

He later revealed through campaign chairman Duncan Johnson that he was seeking the mayor’s post. But last week, a day after reportedly telling a TV reporter off-camera that he deleted the files himself, Russell announced he wasn’t running for mayor but gave no explanation. He did not return a call seeking comment.

Davis, who appeared for commission committee meetings Monday but missed the legal session, said with Russell no longer employed, the inquiry is likely a waste of time.

“Why are we spending our taxpayer dollars on somebody who is not working for the government?” she said.

Williams, whose frequent demands and questions about city government are prone to aggravate his colleagues, returned the request to the next commission meeting agenda.

In other business Monday, members of the city’s administrative services committee got an update on responses to the city’s requests for proposals to manage, lease or buy Augusta Municipal Golf Course. The two qualified vendors, Cypress Golf Management, of Orlando, Fla., and Classic Golf Management, of Marietta, Ga., will make presentations to city officials Feb. 21, according to Recreation, Parks and Facilities Director Bob Levine.

The committee also declined, under advisement of Procurement Director Geri Sams, to reconsider a proposal from businessman Paul Simon to merge the course with adjacent First Tee of Augusta and share resources. The proposal had five supporting votes last year. Sams said reconsidering it now is “not fair to the persons who abided by the RFP.”

In an earlier Monday work session, commissioners heard requests from city department heads about projects to include on the next special purpose, local option sales tax but took no steps to narrow what has grown to $741 million in requested projects down to a package voters are more likely to favor May 20, around $200 million. The package must include repayment for an $8 million loan the city will take out in March to provide matching funds for Georgia Regents University to build a new cancer research center, Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer said.

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corgimom
32345
Points
corgimom 02/10/14 - 10:52 pm
10
4
So what happens to the $8

So what happens to the $8 million loan if the SPLOST is defeated?

bubbasauce
20641
Points
bubbasauce 02/11/14 - 04:19 am
9
5
All these projects will be

All these projects will be postponed or even better cancelled. Residents of Augusta please don't raise you're own tax! It's already high enough!

Bodhisattva
6202
Points
Bodhisattva 02/11/14 - 05:39 am
7
5
Of course they won't

Of course they won't investigate.

Junket103
452
Points
Junket103 02/11/14 - 08:05 am
9
5
Williams is Right, on This One

Sometimes, even the fool gets it right. As much as I hate to say this, Commissioner Williams is absolutely correct in having the issue investigated. It shouldn't take long to determine if the law was broken. If the Attorney General's office says nothing illegal happened, then let it go. Won't cost much to investigate because it shouldn't take that long. But if the hard drive should not have been deleted from a legal standpoint, then Fred and some others should face the music. The computer system is the property of the employer and not the employee. Destruction of the information is potentially a crime, unless IT backed it up or the AG determines that Fred, as Administrative head had the authority to authorize the deletion. It would also be interesting to see if forensics can determine exactly when this occurred. It might be one thing if done prior to being fired. But another entirely if done after.

seenitB4
87146
Points
seenitB4 02/11/14 - 08:05 am
6
8
Move along now

He has been FIRED already....what is left...pull his toe nails out.....spend the money on something else.

Kos
114
Points
Kos 02/11/14 - 08:34 am
8
2
Here we go again, with this
Unpublished

Here we go again, with this bias approach to decide should Fred Russell be probe. Another Kay Allen shielded from being probe. District Attorney Ashely Wright need to probe this matter. Should the commissioners make a formal request to Gov. Nathan Deal? Don't matter if Russell is not employed, a criminal act was committed while he was employed and that's why Russell stalled when Commissioner Marion Williams asked to review Fred Russell's (while he was employed) hard drive in the past and it was stonewalled. Now, after he was fired Russell's hard drive is missing files, something in the air stank, and I mean foul.

dichotomy
32906
Points
dichotomy 02/11/14 - 08:45 am
3
5
Not wasting time trying to

Not wasting time trying to pin something on Fred....RIGHT ANSWER

Finding a bidder for the Patch......RIGHT ANSWER

Staying away from Paul Simon deals.....RIGHT ANSWER

Now, get on with cutting the SPLOST to $200 million of PUBLIC WORKS projects.....NO PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS.

Little Lamb
45962
Points
Little Lamb 02/11/14 - 10:38 am
6
5
Where there's smoke . . .

Here is some smoke that smells very fishy to me:

Interim City Administrator Tameka Allen, who has served as the city’s Information Technology Director since 2001, maintains that IT staff had no involvement in deleting files. She said Monday, however, that in-house efforts to retrieve any of the missing files from the system turned up nothing.

How can Allen possibly know that no one in the IT department deleted files for Fred? Did she just call a staff meeting and ask for a show of hands?

To delete files from a server requires logging into the server. That requires a user name and a password.

There has got to be a paper trail here. For the IT Director and currently-serving interim city administrator to tell commissioners that she does not know how to follow that trail is dangerously non-credible. We're getting off to a poor start with this new interim-administrator.

nocnoc
42543
Points
nocnoc 02/11/14 - 08:53 am
7
5
Even if Williams is a few fries short of a happy meal,

there are indications that GA Law has been violated.

The RCSO should not have to be "asked" to look into the missing files and email. If the RCSO follows its required mandate of investigating crime and enforcing the laws of GA, they would have jumped on this already.

I expect M. Williams to request the GBI or the Fed's to become involved since there is enough evidence the OCGA and Federal Laws have been violated.

Like I said before M. Williams is a show-boater a bragger, Mic Hog and displays little or no professional image for even a Downtown ARC Commissioner, but he is what his voter want and elected him and his style.

IT IS SIMPLE
If the law has been violated, then to put the public's mind to rest and reduce suspicion of Downtown back alley deals, they needed to at least request the RCSO do a primarily investigation. If for no other reason than to White Wash the problem in the voters eye.

Whether it happen or not, now an increasing # of the public are wondering Who, What, When, Where, Why & How Much $$$ changed hands, or what Black Mail files did Fred have?

Besides if there was nothing to hide having RCSO investigate and find nothing wouldn't it Politically Embarrass Commissioner Williams beyond recovery?

seenitB4
87146
Points
seenitB4 02/11/14 - 09:14 am
5
7
You will never see it

It has been washed away...gone--kaput-forever....no one will ever know...sooo stop wasting time & money on this....sometimes personal info can be erased forever & for good reason.

Sophisticated
198
Points
Sophisticated 02/11/14 - 09:38 am
6
5
A Cover Up

Staff members " have not been able to retrieve anything," Allen said. They "couldn't find any files that were deleted." What joke! I just paid to have my computer drive eradicated. Someone within the administration aid Fred Russell cleaned incriminated files. Got to start with asst administration Allen and work through the channels someone going fold and tell something.

tom31510
312
Points
tom31510 02/11/14 - 09:52 am
8
2
Commissioner's meetings

Has there ever been a commissioner's meeting with 100% attendance? Just asking.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 02/11/14 - 09:55 am
2
5
So some want to use YOUR tax

So some want to use YOUR tax dollars to investigate past events to see if a law was broken. Where does it end though? Maybe all the pc's issued by the city should be sent off for forensics to determine if an infraction occurred. What makes this accusation any more important than other suspected wrongdoing throughout the years. Just move on or at least come up with something other than a hunch. Just be a professional is all i'm suggesting.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 02/11/14 - 09:57 am
1
5
It's all subjective anyway

It's all subjective anyway with regard to what a person can and cannot legally delete.

JRC2024
8854
Points
JRC2024 02/11/14 - 10:04 am
6
1
It used to be said to never

It used to be said to never write anything down that you did not want to come up and haunt you later. Now never send emails or put anything on an employers computer that you don't want to haunt you. Do it in person.

seenitB4
87146
Points
seenitB4 02/11/14 - 10:08 am
3
2
jrc

Yep...but they can record you...we have no place to run...my thinking is there is some personal info on his puter....really personal stuff......man & woman stuff. It won't see the light of day.

Discussionstarter
495
Points
Discussionstarter 02/11/14 - 10:23 am
8
3
Agree with Junket103

Totally disagree with Commissioner Mary Davis's comment. Disappearing hard drive.... smells. IT Director Allen had better come clean or her career will be over soon... for covering this up. RCSO and Ashley Wright need to start an investigation. Some one removed files!!! I have to Agree with Commissioner Williams..... this needs to be thoroughly reviewed.

Riverman1
83852
Points
Riverman1 02/11/14 - 10:24 am
7
3
Kay Allen

All this brings up Kay Allen. If it is indeed illegal to conduct business on a county computer, has anyone requested to see Allen's computer to determine if her personal work for the towns involved county assets?

Little Lamb
45962
Points
Little Lamb 02/11/14 - 10:47 am
3
2
Personal Work

RM, everyone knows that the billing and collecting work done for Grovetown and Harlem was done by Columbia County tax department employees on government time and using government resources. That's not the issue. The issue is whether Kay Allen had written contracts with those two towns or whether it was verbal agreements.

Now, you can be sure that Kay Allen will never provide the answer to that question. But surely a news reporting organization can get the Mayors of Grovetown and Harlem to produce the contracts or to at least say that there was no contract. The towns have nothing to lose either way.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7801
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 02/11/14 - 10:55 am
2
3
Hard Drive

Even if the hard drive of that computer were "wiped" or completely replaced, ARC uses a server system that has a record of everything and it would be retained there. If it were deleted there would be a record and trail. All this tells me is that his hard drive was looked at and based upon Marion Williams grandstanding, he was given everything he could be trusted with and no more. If I were MW I'd worry more about what was on there that could incriminate me, and that may be the entire reason for all the theatrics!!!

Graymare
3196
Points
Graymare 02/11/14 - 11:26 am
4
1
That's it.

We gave the foolish another fifteen minutes of fame. It's over, move on. As far as the Splost goes, there should be no private companies on that list. If you want funding for your projects go to the dang bank and borrow the money like the rest of us do. Don't we have government/county bonds available so the rich folks could borrow from taxpayers for a change? Ridiculous!

Conservative Man
5564
Points
Conservative Man 02/11/14 - 11:19 am
3
3
Wonder if the,"PINK MAFIA,"

Wonder if the,"PINK MAFIA," has anything to do with this?

Graymare
3196
Points
Graymare 02/11/14 - 11:31 am
4
2
Yet another end to the

Yet another end to the Richmond County Fractured Fairytale: "While everyone was so busy arguing about a hard drive, they didn't even notice their money being swiped from their wallets and pocketbooks."

lovingthesouth72
1368
Points
lovingthesouth72 02/11/14 - 11:58 am
4
1
Hiding something?

Sounds like a cover up that involves some on the commission. So much for transparency and trust. This is the reason why we cannot and do not trust politicians !

john
979
Points
john 02/11/14 - 12:26 pm
1
1
how do you know what isn't there?

How does anyone know what he might have deleted? emails and normal work files are kept on a server and backed up/archived. Security logs are part of best business practices. If he deleted files from a server, there are always backups to look at. Its not that hard to see what happened if anything. What is the probable cause? Williams doesnt like him? And may I say that if the skin colors were reversed there would most likely be all sorts of charges of you know what....

Discussionstarter
495
Points
Discussionstarter 02/11/14 - 12:42 pm
3
1
IF....

IF the Mayor and the Richmond County Commissioners truly believed in honesty / trust / transparency / ethical behavior / truth..... the investigation of the hard drive would have already began! What else needs to be said?! This is so sad. Marion Williams is correct on this initiative.

story1
802
Points
story1 02/11/14 - 12:57 pm
2
2
Don't let their strategy work....

Leaders keep tossing out ~$700M in Splost request with "a goal of getting to $200M". $200M target by the Mayor is $40M more than what was approved for last Splost and that one included SOA, Mini Theater & other agencies. The target number should be $150M for roads, bridges and infrastructure. We must vote NO if they include any outside agencies in this Splost.

Augz79
1083
Points
Augz79 02/11/14 - 10:48 pm
3
2
To all the people saying Fred is gone, we shouldn't care anymore

Fred may be gone, but the deals he made will be with us for years to come. If state law required that documents and correspondence about certain business dealings are required to be kept on file for x years, and Mr. Russell [let's give him the benefit of the doubt] deleted them ignorant of the law, then what is to be lost by investigating this? Many millions of dollars worth of projects passed through that computer.

One issue I do have with Mr. Williams though is he (and all of Augusta) need to get past the racial mentality. Williams used the fact that "two black females" were fired in the past as a reason for pushing this. Who cares what race or gender they were? Were their jobs worth any more than if a white female was fired? Many racial wrongs were done in the past, but how are we going to move forward and live together and work together with comments like that? How can you be a county commissioner when you are saying stuff that belittles the contributions and job security of the non-Black employees? Get with it, Marion. Maybe the next mayor will be Black and we can move past these petty racial politics.

Esctab
891
Points
Esctab 02/11/14 - 04:44 pm
4
2
Why is the city trying to force us to pay for GRU?

From the article:
“The package must include repayment for an $8 million loan the city will take out in March to provide matching funds for Georgia Regents University to build a new cancer research center, Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer said.”

Questions:
1. Why is the city doing this????????? Why is this being foisted on the tax payers? No loan should be taken out and it certainly should not be taken to pay for a state-wide (and beyond) building (especially when it is highly questionable whether the building is even needed).

2. In a previous AC article GRU administrators are quoted as saying they did not ask the city for matching funds; see Augusta Chronicle article published January 20, 2014:

http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/health/2014-01-20/city-matching-funds-...

Riverman1
83852
Points
Riverman1 02/12/14 - 04:01 pm
1
1
@LL... Kay Allen

LL said, "The issue is whether Kay Allen had written contracts with those two towns or whether it was verbal agreements."

I'm not sure exactly what you mean, but even if Allen had verbal or written contracts with the towns when Columbia County crossed the 50,000 parcel threshold, it was illegal for her to personally collect payments from the towns for the work. There was a law enacted to specifically prevent the practice.

Concerning Russell, if we want to make criminal charges against him because he used the city computer for personal business how in the world can we ignore what Allen did? In her case, using the county office and computers is a given as you said, yet she has not been charged. We also have obvious, clear law breaking. At the worst, Russell was using his computer for personal business.

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