We have a right to know

Wiped records from former administrator's computer belong to public

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It’s as if they want to erase what Fred Russell has done.

Some Augusta commissioners want to put the disappearance of the former city administrator’s computer files behind them.

The whole episode has created unwanted distractions and divisiveness at city hall since Commissioner Marion Williams made a request last month to see five years’ worth of Russell’s computer hard drive files. And some on the commission apparently believe that since Russell is no longer with the city – he was fired Dec. 9 by a 7-0 vote – a continued inquiry is a waste of time.

Since when is defending the importance of public records a waste of time?

There is a real possibility that state law – which requires the retention of numerous types of government records, including certain types of email – may have been broken.

Clearly, files were deleted from Russell’s hard drive before its contents were made available to Williams. Incredibly, Russell has admitted deleting files but has offered no further explanation.

He also has not said whether he received any assistance in deleting the files, something which would seem likely considering the dense level of computer network security that one would hope a city as large as Augusta would have.

Interim City Administrator Tameka Allen, who has served as the city’s information technology director since 2001, said Monday that IT staff had no involvement in deleting files nor has it been able to retrieve any of the missing files.

If that is a fact, shouldn’t there at least be an investigation into how a non-IT city employee could single-handedly wipe out computer records and leave little or no trace of evidence?

“What kind of message is that going to say to the rest of the employees?” Williams asked Monday, when his request to seek a preliminary investigation into the file disappearance by the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office was voted down 4-3.

Commissioners’ dismissive behavior over Russell’s data-wiping sets a horrible precedent. The city basically is telling all its employees that they can delete whatever files they want on their computers, whenever they want, without any negative repercussions.

The city should be reminded – and never forget – that data on computers paid for by public money makes the data public record.

Such a cavalier attitude toward the public’s business is shameful.

This investigation request comes from Williams, who has made his colleagues weary by crying “wolf” before.

This is different. This is real.

We hope the measure gets the required six votes when Williams makes the request again. This is simply too important to let go.

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owensjef3 02/13/14 - 08:30 am
I disagree with this opinion,

I disagree with this opinion, but where wer you guys when Calviin holland made this request and I don't remember this paper defending him when he was punish. I know he went about thins differently but still no support from you guys.

Lorraine 02/13/14 - 12:15 pm
Yes, the public does have a

Yes, the public certainly does have a right to know given that the data was removed from a government computer's hard drive. Why on earth would there be a reason to wipe out data? Secondly, why would some commissioners vote to simply ignore Fred Russell's mischief and wrong doing when it comes to government property. Law abiding officials should want to explore this issue further.

Michael Ryan
Michael Ryan 02/13/14 - 03:15 pm
Owensjef, different

Owensjef, different circumstances entirely. When Fred admitted erasing his disk, all bets were off. One incident was a fishing expedition. The other, the fish flopped into the boat!

burninater 02/13/14 - 04:11 pm
"...why would some

"...why would some commissioners vote to simply ignore Fred Russell's mischief and wrong doing when it comes to government property..."
Because they are self-regulators.

If you hold someone who shares your position accountable for their actions, then you yourself may be held accountable in similar circumstances. This type of self-serving cronyism is common throughout the public and private sectors wherever a group is charged with regulating itself.

This is why some protected interests continually clamor for less external regulation, while those who are affected by the cronyism clamor for more external regulation.

Gage Creed
Gage Creed 02/13/14 - 07:57 pm
Tempest in a teacup.... pay

Tempest in a teacup.... pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

This way to the egress... see the one the only.... the fabulous EGRESS!

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