Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

'Computergate II' headed to a city near you

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You might think that with former Augusta Administrator Fred Russell out of a job and out of the mayor’s race, his chief critic and tormentor, Commissioner Marion Williams would let it rest. But you’d be wrong. He’s pushing for a criminal investigation into missing e-mails Russell acknowledged deleting. He’s also accusing Information Technology Director and interim Administrator Tameka Allen, or someone in her department, of aiding and abetting Russell.

Well, everybody seems to have forgotten that the city hired a $150-an-hour, Cornell University-trained Atlanta attorney seven years ago, during Computergate I, to give an impartial opinion on whether Williams and then-Commissioner Calvin Holland should get copies of Russell’s hard drive, and he said no.

COMPUTERGATE II: Williams said he’ll ask his colleagues to support him in seeking the criminal investigation, but if they don’t, he’ll do it himself. And if the sheriff’s office doesn’t want to investigate, he’ll take them on too.

“If they don’t want to do a preliminary investigation, I’ll be questioning them then,” he said.

Asked what would be accomplished by pursuing the matter, Williams said the point was that Russell had been planning to run for mayor after being the “top point man” in the government.

“What conversations did he have? What deals were being made?” he asked.

And, he said, it won’t take six votes to authorize an investigation because former Sheriff Ronnie Strength didn’t have six votes authorizing him to investigate whether Williams had illegally obtained a copy of what was on Russell’s computer hard drive seven years ago.

Williams had bragged about having a copy but said he hadn’t looked at it because he didn’t know whether he’d be breaking the law, but the sheriff determined Williams never had a copy.

A HARD DRIVE AND A HARDER HEAD: Computergate I began with the firing of staff attorney Vanessa Flournoy in 2007 by then-City Attorney Eugene Jessup – who shortly thereafter got fired himself – after he confiscated the hard drive from her city computer and saw she’d been using it for her private business. Suspecting Russell might have been using his computer for his private business, Holland asked an Information Technology employee for Russell’s hard drive.

Commissioners censured Holland, and because of the controversy hired Atlanta attorney Quinton Seay to determine whether Holland had violated city ordinance. In his opinion letter, Seay stated that Holland had violated only the intent of the ordinance, not the law itself, by seeking the information.

Seay also rejected Williams’ request for a copy of the hard drive information on grounds it was too broad and that a hard drive does not constitute a public record under Georgia law and is not subject to disclosure under the Open Records Act.

Dissatisfied with Seay’s opinion, Williams called an attorney in the state attorney general’s office who confirmed the opinion. Still dissatisfied, Williams called the attorney’s bosses who referred him to the first attorney he talked to.

Undeterred, Williams said he was going all the way to Washington for the answer he wanted.

“I’m going to get it even if I have to hire a lawyer,” he said.

Then after commissioners fired Russell in December, Williams demanded to see what was on his computer. And when he finally got a printout, there was almost nothing there. And he’s been on the warpath ever since.

VENGEANCE IS MINE, SAYETH THE COMMISSIONER: “If it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander,” Williams said last week. “They fired two black females over a computer hard drive. If it was that important for
them to be fired, it’s important now for us to find out what was on Russell’s computer.”

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle disagrees and says it’s time to move on.

“If we keep accusing, we’re going to get ourselves in a lot of trouble,” he said. “If he was doing something wrong, why would he have it on his computer? They already went through his hard drive. There’s nothing there.

“We’ve done fired the man. We’ve done discredited the man. We need to move on.”

Commissioner Donnie Smith said Williams will have to pursue an investigation without commission support.

“He ain’t going to get six votes, I can tell you that,” he said. “We’re moving on down the road. We’ve got millions of dollars in economic development between the cancer center and Cyber Command. We can’t waste our time on some nonsense like this.”

SPLOST OR SPLAT? City officials hope to have a SPLOST VII package ready by March 10 to go before voters May 20, but if they aren’t any better at cutting the $700 million wish list than they were at balancing this year’s budget, it won’t happen.

At the first SPLOST VII work shop last week, Commissioner Bill Fennoy said he won’t support the package if east Augusta drainage problems aren’t addressed. He said when he came to Augusta in 1965, it was flooding in east Augusta and it’s still flooding in east Augusta.

Actually, a $4 million street and drainage project was completed on East Boundary in 2009, and a $4 million street and drainage project is ongoing in east Augusta funded from SPLOST VI.

Some $4 million SPLOST dollars will be used in an estimated $18 million street and drainage project in the area. The project bounded by Sand Bar Ferry Road, Interstate 520, Laney-Walker Boulevard, East Boundary and Marion Homes is under design. Money from the proposed rain tax will also help fund the eight-phase project.

Commissioner Bill Lockett said his district hasn’t gotten its fair share of tax money in the past and that he won’t vote for the tax package if there’s not “an equal and equitable distribution of the proceeds.”

District 5 has had only small SPLOST projects, but design is underway on an estimated $14 million to $15 million Rocky Creek drainage improvement project that is three or four years down the road. Lockett says nothing’s being done, and the U.S. Corps of Engineers says the project’s moving too fast.

Commissioner Alvin Mason said he’s not supporting sales tax dollars for the cancer center until Georgia Regents University adds the word “Augusta” to the school’s signs. You’d better get a move on, GRU. March 10 will be here before you know it.

YOU’LL LOVE LOVE LETTERS: Just in time for Valentine’s Day WGAC radio talk show host Austin Rhodes and WRDW News 12 anchor Meredith Anderson will repeat last year’s stunning performances in Love Letters, A.R. Gurney’s Pulitzer-nominated classic. The play will be at 8 p.m. Friday, at Jabez-Hardin Performing Arts Theater in Evans. Rhodes as Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Anderson as Melissa Gardner will captivate you with their funny, heart-wrenching performances.

Proceeds from the play will benefit Storyland Theatre. For ticket information, call (706) 736-3455.

Comments (34) Add comment
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GnipGnop
11457
Points
GnipGnop 02/08/14 - 09:53 pm
10
1
Fred is gone...move on

Stop playing games and move forward...looks like by marion account it's more about 2 blacks being fired than it is about anything else...sure will be glad when there is no 50/50 racial split.we will see who Marion can blame then...

Pops
6761
Points
Pops 02/08/14 - 11:03 pm
7
0
One wonders

why some people comment here as to the ignorance and stupidity of some in the Augusta so called "leadership". Just reread the first few paragraphs of this article......

JRC2024
7938
Points
JRC2024 02/08/14 - 11:05 pm
11
2
River, Marion has been out to

River, Marion has been out to lunch all his life and so have the dummies who elected him.

Darby
23559
Points
Darby 02/08/14 - 11:55 pm
9
1
"Williams said he’ll ask his colleagues to support

him in seeking the criminal investigation, but if they don’t, he’ll do it himself."

.
Hey guys, sounds an awful lot like Marion is saying "I've got a pen, and I've got a 'phone".

Wonder where he got that attitude from?

Little Lamb
43815
Points
Little Lamb 02/09/14 - 12:04 am
9
0
E-mails

RM, of course it is not illegal for Fred to delete E-mails from his own hard drive - - - - - but it is another matter entirely for Fred to talk an Augusta IT employee into deleting Fred's E-mails from the government’s servers.

That is where Marion is on solid ground.

Public records on the servers are not to be deleted except under approved protocols and only after a long period of time. The accusation is that Fred called in some chips and got many public records deleted from the city's servers so that Marion could not read them.

Little Lamb
43815
Points
Little Lamb 02/09/14 - 12:09 am
7
0
TEE

Wouldn't you like to read e-mails between Fred, Paul Simon, contract attorney Jim Plunkett, and Billy Morris's attorney regarding the TEE Center management agreement, the Marriott parking deck management agreement, and the "air rights" controversy, RM?

Too bad. Fred was able to get an IT employee to delete them.

deestafford
23457
Points
deestafford 02/09/14 - 12:15 am
11
2
Y'all know if the folks who made the decision for Cyber...

Y'all know if the folks who made the decision for Cyber Command to come here are reading about Williams and his ranting, they are asking, "Is it too late to change putting that command at Fort Gordon? It appears the city is run by idiots."

augustarookie
300
Points
augustarookie 02/09/14 - 02:27 am
6
2
Legend

Williams is a legend in his own mine. What a joke.

internationallyunknown
3932
Points
internationallyunknown 02/09/14 - 02:56 am
5
2
Grammar

“We’ve done fired the man. We’ve done discredited the man. We need to move on.”

Everyone knows Fred had those files deleted.
Imagine the information...

Riverman1
79174
Points
Riverman1 02/09/14 - 06:13 am
8
2
LL---E-mails

Okay, so we agree it is legal for him to delete e-mail on his computer. This deleting from government servers is a new twist, but did Williams ask for Russell’s files on the government servers or from Russell’s computer that he used? I don’t think he asked for the copies maintained by the IT department.

If the IT department did delete the files to avoid something, go after them as you would any employee breaking the rules, but that’s getting into another issue.

As far as protocols about maintaining email files on servers from all employees and officials, heh, this is Augusta. If you find approved protocols and a consistent policy that’s been carried out I’ll donate money to the Marion Williams’ Skywalk.

Riverman1
79174
Points
Riverman1 02/09/14 - 06:18 am
6
2
About the TEE Center Emails

LL, sure, I'd like to read the emails about the shenanigans with the TEE Center. But the Mayor and Commissioners are all given personal computers and smart phones, too. I'd like to read all their email, phone texts and see who they called. Is that backed up and available if requested?

myfather15
49403
Points
myfather15 02/09/14 - 06:58 am
8
3
Why, on God's earth do we the

Why, on God's earth do we the people, keep electing people like Marion Williams???

If he can't get the answer he wants, he will keep going to different people, until he does!! Sound about right Marion? How many different people have to tell you that you're wrong, before you will believe it? Chances are, you will NEVER believe you're wrong!! Because YOU, are Marion Williams, and YOU believe Marion Williams is awesome!! There are FAR too many people like this in the world!! Have you ever heard of honestly humbling yourself Mr. Williams? I doubt you even truly know what the word humble means!!

seenitB4
81080
Points
seenitB4 02/09/14 - 08:38 am
6
5
Give me a break..

And some have the audacity to blame the posters for holding Augusta back!!

Bodhisattva
5574
Points
Bodhisattva 02/09/14 - 08:52 am
3
6
I don't like in Augusta so

I don't like in Augusta so it's not my tax money going to the boondoggles, but I would think deleting files from a city owned computer would be illegal. Private info shouldn't be on it in the first place. Ollie North wasn't shredding documents to make confetti for a going away parade. Sylvia's in with the powers that be that would like it out of site and forgetten. I'd say there's something being hidden that would be very embarassing for someone or very illegal. Go for it and check them out.

nocnoc
38271
Points
nocnoc 02/09/14 - 09:15 am
8
1
OPENING A CAN OF WORMS

The Emails should not be missing even if deleted from the users ARC desktop.

Under Federal Record retention laws ARC must keep a copies of certain records and data for Years.

So even if FRED deleted files or Emails from his County Laptop/Desktop system, and If ARC is following the GA & Federal laws, ARC should then still have backup copies.

Unless of course the current ARC IT Director (aka Asst City Admin) failed to follow the law?

Some Examples:
As a government municipality, ARC is required to store emails for up to 7 years.

Also according to ADP, the Georgia law requires 7 years for certain data (email).

EEOC Regulations Employment records for one year. If an employee is involuntarily terminated, his/her personnel records must be retained for one year from the date of termination.

In short
IF ARC fails to have backup copies of certain 90+ days duration files and Emails, then Mr. Williams has just invited ARC to be
SUED & $$$$$FINED $$$$ for failure to follow the law.

A simple USC18-2703(_) request by the Fed's will open up ARC to serious issues.
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2703

Graymare
2589
Points
Graymare 02/09/14 - 09:13 am
9
2
ad nauseum

We've got bigger fish to fry than that dang hard drive. Talk about an out of control ego, with a bit of bait and switch added for gp. Perhaps he believes he's positioning himself for a higher office? I wish him all the best. "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." Abraham Lincoln

JRC2024
7938
Points
JRC2024 02/09/14 - 10:24 am
8
1
myfather, the answer is the

myfather, the answer is the uneducated can vote and he is what they see as being smart. They done elected him again and he done showed them how smart he is.

Willow Bailey
20579
Points
Willow Bailey 02/09/14 - 10:54 am
7
3
Sure hope Mr. Williams pays

Sure hope Mr. Williams pays his personal taxes before he "hires a lawyer." If it weren't for dysfunctional behavior....some people wouldn't have anything to do.

internationallyunknown
3932
Points
internationallyunknown 02/09/14 - 10:52 am
3
8
Elitist attitudes

"How dare he?
"His supporters are dumb/stupid"
"Blah, blah blah"

Bigger fish? What's bigger than corrupt government?

The Augusta Commission needs someone like Williams....he keeps "them" on their toes and their panties in a bunch.

Sylvia is so in with the "boys."

gargoyle
13327
Points
gargoyle 02/09/14 - 11:54 am
6
1
NocNoc you just found the

NocNoc you just found the gorilla in the room . If IT don't have backup and archive Augusta doesn't have a IT dept. Clearing out your computer is akin to cleaning out your desk to ready it for the next person it is issued to . Some things they might not be authorized to have access to. The IT dept. should be the people to do the decision to destroy or wipe the hard drive. Not just E-Mail is the issue is all the other files should have been archived or the dept. is on the wrong side of the law . Who has access to those files is a different issue, most of the time policy is in place limiting fishing trips and vendettas. But this is Augusta Government and not very proactive with a side of drama for the sake of drama

dichotomy
30413
Points
dichotomy 02/09/14 - 11:57 am
6
2
Emails and all files are

Emails and all files are SUPOSSED to be backed up on the IT department servers. Anyone can delete files and emails from their desktop or laptop. It's done everyday by government employees at all levels. If long term employees did not delete emails from their inbox and folders the size of the files would eventually become so large that the PST file, or equivalent, would become corrupt and the entire thing would be lost. Fred was within his rights to delete anything from his computer. The backups on the servers is another question and responsibility is on someone else unless they can prove Fred used his influence or duress to cause some IT department employee to do the job for him.

But the fact remains that nobody can use a PC or laptop for 10 years and not delete some emails and/or files from their local hard drive. Files are deleted everyday and nobody questions it until some vindictive weirdo comes along on a fishing expedition and tries to make an issue out of it.

There are lots of people out there, to include government employees. Can any of you say that you have never deleted a file or an email from your PC or laptop? How about all them jokes you got everyday?

Fred did nothing prosecutable by deleting stuff from his computer. Now whatever happened to the IT department backups.....I can't say.

So if Marion wants to go after the IT department, have at it. Fred got away clean most likely.

Bizkit
29123
Points
Bizkit 02/09/14 - 01:42 pm
6
1
Williams actions borders on

Williams actions borders on "pathological"-the man needs some mental counseling is most obvious. He has lost his ability to reason and gone a bit rabid, which can happen to the best of us-hey I've done the same thing. He'll no doubt snap out of it-but not without looking and feeling foolish. I sure did. That righteous indignation has lead many to the path being seen as the self-righteous fool.

charker
9
Points
charker 02/09/14 - 01:54 pm
7
1
I'm glad Augusta has a strong

base both economically and in the community. This strength is important because that is what allows Augusta, Ga to thrive and prosper no matter how hard these locally elected idiots try to mess the city up.

Sweet son
9661
Points
Sweet son 02/09/14 - 02:29 pm
4
1
Willow Bailey beat me to it!

Marion quote:“I’m going to get it even if I have to hire a lawyer,” he said.

He can't even pay his taxes so we don't have to worry about 'him' hiring a lawyer himself. Maybe when the Feds turn him down he will shut up. Probably not. He likes camera time! He is a narcissist!

He actually thinks he is something to look at! LMAO

leebraxjr
262
Points
leebraxjr 02/09/14 - 03:46 pm
3
1
Williams pushing for a Watergate that is not there.

I was first standing by Williams because I thought his agenda was for the public. I now see it is a personal situation they may cost him his job. Unless information concerning Fred Russell is shared with the public for the public, Williams should not be able to personally seek Russell's information on the hard drive.

sawgrass
1210
Points
sawgrass 02/09/14 - 07:50 pm
2
1
puzzled

What information is Williams searching for? He has no idea what the hard drive is. This is a quote from Williams. “They fired two black females over a computer hard drive. If it was that important for
them to be fired, it’s important now for us to find out what was on Russell’s computer.” Williams is making this a racial issue, not a political issue. Williams is one of the problems with this city. I have lived here my entire 58 years of life. He creates hate and discontent. Go away Williams.

Pops
6761
Points
Pops 02/09/14 - 08:13 pm
4
1
Williams has learned

one thing when trying to talk about a computer. The term "hard drive". He doesn't have a clue when folks talk about servers, backup disks, networks, etc. He learned to say "hard drive" and thinks he sounds literate....bottom line.....a man needs to know his limitations....trust me....deep down....a clown like Williams knows who ....and what he really is........

fatboyhog
1800
Points
fatboyhog 02/09/14 - 09:56 pm
2
0
Drag Snacks LLC

How about Marion investigate if someone he knows bought a parcel of land several years ago across from a proposed drag strip, because he may have had some inside information (Drag Snacks LLC...kinda fishy, huh?). Then, investigate how someone who is supposed to be running the county can get out of paying taxes. Has a lien been placed on his property? Has he paid his taxes yet? How many times has he been delinquent? If memory serves me correctly, didn't he sell church property to the county for an exorbitant amount? An amount that was several times more than it was appraised at? How many times has Marion used his position to his advantage? Seems to me, unless one is squeaky clean, one should not be casting stones.

sand gnat
388
Points
sand gnat 02/10/14 - 12:22 am
2
0
Background

Williams does not appear to be an effective communicator. Maybe its me. I read where Augusta has been rated one of the top ten cities to live in the USA. Is this due to the good public image that politicians portray about Augusta? Or perhaps the leadership at GRU? Our city seemed to gel a little better 35-40 years ago.

Truth Matters
6164
Points
Truth Matters 02/10/14 - 02:47 am
1
0
I can settle this once and

I can settle this once and for all. Marion Williams is a REPUBLICAN.
He does not want anyone misusing county resources for their own gain such as running a business from a taxpayer funded computer. If Russell wanted to run a business on the side he was within his rights to do so. But he should NOT have used the county's time nor property to that end.

Like LL, I want to know what back room deals went down regarding the TEE Center. Don't expect Sylvia to side with Williams and throw her boss under the bus.

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