Gone fishing

File search sadly continues the tone of distrust in city government

Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams’ aggressive probe into former City Administrator Fred Russell’s computer records will provide him with just the evidence needed to … to …

We’re not sure. He’s not sure. He’s never said what he’s trying to prove, or even what he’s looking for.

Williams’ request for as many files as possible from Russell’s hard drive – he’s being permitted to examine five years’ worth – may add up to nothing more than wasted work hours for the city staff who must review and print the documents. Or, who knows – it might actually uncover something worth pursuing further.

But it all seems so petty. And the querulous manner of Williams’ fishing expedition only further pollutes an already toxic atmosphere at city hall. How sad that such distrust hangs like a haze over our city government.

Monitoring and holding public employees accountable is one thing, but displaying such vitriolic distrust for an employee who has never been accused of criminal wrongdoing sends a chilling message to current and future employees.

A nationwide job search is going on for Russell’s replacement as city administrator. Who would be interested in applying for the job if this is the kind of treatment they can expect to get from just one of the county’s 10 commissioners?

Williams first tried peeking into Russell’s files in 2007 amid insinuations that government equipment was being used for personal business. That probe went nowhere and Williams backed off. Now he’s at it again.

“I’m looking for any- and everything,” Williams said. “I don’t have a trail.”

Or, perhaps, a sense of tact.

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