Attorney dismisses requests

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Augusta commissioners Calvin Holland and Marion Williams' requests for copies of City Administrator Fred Russell's computer hard drive are too general and vague to be granted, says an attorney hired to give an impartial opinion on the requests.

Atlanta attorney Quinton S. Seay reviewed Mr. Holland's oral request and Mr. Williams' written one and said the commissioners failed to make valid requests under the Georgia Open Records Act.

"First, the commissioners' requests to receive copies of two hard drives do not constitute requests for records, as that term is defined by the Open Records Act," Mr. Seay wrote to Tameka Allen, the city's information technology director.

"The commissioners' have failed to request that the city produce certain records or particular types of records. Basically, their request is so general and vague that the city is unable to identify any records that can be made available for their inspection."

In addition, Mr. Holland and Mr. Williams have not requested certain information or a particular type of information to be produced from the two hard drives they have identified, Mr. Seay said.

"Finally, one of the hard drives that the commissioners have requested be copied contains information that is not subject to public disclosure under the Open Records Act," Mr. Seay continued.

Mr. Russell's hard drive is known to contain personal, confidential, disciplinary, medical and mental-health information of city employees.

"The disclosure of this information would be an invasion of the privacy of those employees and may expose the city to liability under various federal and state laws," Mr. Seay's letter concluded.

The commissioners had also requested copies of the computer hard drive of Lisa Williams, a secretary in the city's in-house law department.

Mr. Williams contends he already has a copy of Mr. Russell's computer hard drive, but he will not say where he got it.

He only said that if it does not match the information he expects eventually to receive from the administrator's computer, there would be trouble.

"I've got what I need, and I can wait them out," he said.

Mr. Williams said if his open records request is so vague that Mr. Seay can't understand it, he will re-word it so that he will.

He said he learned from former city attorney Jim Wall and his successor Stephen Shepard that a word change here or there can change the whole meaning of a document.

Mr. Williams said Mr. Seay's letter is so vague he can't understand it.

"We're paying him $150 an hour, so he ought to talk with plain sense," he said. "He's talking in circles. I do that, but I don't get $150 an hour."

Mr. Williams said the way politics works in Augusta is that if attorneys offend either side on an issue, they will be out the door and lose lucrative business, so they play both sides.

Meanwhile, Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said his department is continuing its inquiry into how Mr. Williams could have gotten a copy of Mr. Russell's hard drive, but that no criminal investigation has been launched.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

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patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 05/17/07 - 04:44 am
0
1
Once more it would seem the

Once more it would seem the best action for the commission to take is some kind of step to restrain Mr. Williams. Is he in posession of a copy of Mr. Russell's hard drive or is he just threating to put the city in a position to be sued? His stated actions have been deemed illegal even though no one knows if he has the hard drive or is just lying once more. He's not proven to be very smooth, but he sure is audacious. Whether or not he has the hard drive doesn't seem as important as the threat of exposing the city to needless financial liability. This type of action is disruptive for no reason. What is his point and who is being helped by his actions? With the amount of legal help available to the commission, someone should be able to find a way to corral or confine this fool before his wild thrashing about causes irreparable damage.

CKB
0
Points
CKB 05/17/07 - 04:45 am
0
1
Will Marion Williams ever go

Will Marion Williams ever go away? He is a disgrace to Augusta!

Reality
3
Points
Reality 05/17/07 - 05:43 am
0
1
Marion Williams either has

Marion Williams either has the hard drive illegally or is a bold face liar...If he does have it and with personal information on City employees, he has opened the door for numerous lawsuits. Action needs to be taken immediately to avoid further complications.

pantherluvcik
628
Points
pantherluvcik 05/17/07 - 06:02 am
0
1
Mr. Seay is being paid a 150

Mr. Seay is being paid a 150 an hour, for this nonsense?

nofrills
0
Points
nofrills 05/17/07 - 06:16 am
0
1
I use to look at the funnies

I use to look at the funnies every morning now I read this paper! $150.00 an hour! HAHA! WoW! Guess how many hours he needed to render his opinion? I think we should take money from our parks dept and get a second opinion. yeah! thats my opinion. Now who do I send the bill for my opinion?

kudzo-n-roses
2
Points
kudzo-n-roses 05/17/07 - 06:32 am
0
1
marion Mr. Seay talked with

marion Mr. Seay talked with perfect sense...it takes an educated person to understand plain English.......put up or shut up you sad little man.

JimCox
7
Points
JimCox 05/17/07 - 06:32 am
0
1
I think the opinion left out

I think the opinion left out a necessary statement: If Marion and Holland want to go on a fishing expedition, they should go to the Merry Brickyard ponds.

KingJames
10
Points
KingJames 05/17/07 - 07:37 am
0
1
Williams should abandon his

Williams should abandon his effort to get the hard drive. He apparenttly doesn't understand that if he wants information from it, he has to specify what type of information so that approval can be granted to copy that information only. All other informatioin should be protected. He obviously doesn't understand that IF he was given a copy of certain information, then a record of that disclosure would have to be maintained. He can't just make a written request for information, but not specify what information he needs. That doesn't make sense. He also made another statement that should concern voters: "He's talking in circles. I do that, but I don't get $150 an hour." The attorney fee doesn't bother me. The fact that he reeadily admits that he talks in circles means that he probably doesn't need to be an elected official. Elected officials should never talk in circles because too many people depend on them to be honest in their civic duty and leadership. This statement alone should convince the public to demand his resignation. He's not representing, just disrupting.

PantherPride
0
Points
PantherPride 05/17/07 - 07:42 am
0
1
1. Terrible schools 2.

1. Terrible schools
2. Terrible government
3. Powerless mayor
4. The professionals fleeing to Columbia County
5. Negative growth
6. etc.

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 05/17/07 - 07:45 am
0
1
Fred Russell is either a

Fred Russell is either a genius or a slick one. He has tricked the commissioners into believing that they have to file a Georgia Open Records Act (GORA) request to obtain city information. The commissioners are too obtuse to know that GORA is for the general public and the press. Elected officials, supervisors, employees and agents of the city do not have to use GORA, they are able to see official records and even documents in progress because they are inside the government. Of course there are limits to what they can see, the "need to know" clause.

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 05/17/07 - 07:58 am
0
1
GORA is a mechanism for

GORA is a mechanism for citizens to obtain public records. To be a public record, it must have been approved at the appropriate level. For example, a bid specification package is a public record after it has been approved, but it is not a public record while it is being generated, reviewed, amended, etc. by the Engineering Department. A commissioner would be fully justified to examine the bid specification package while it is being prepared, but he would not use GORA to get it. In fact, if he filed a GORA request for an unapproved (i.e., non-public) document, it would BECOME a public document the moment the clerk handed it to him, and then John Q. Public could see it even though it had not been approved. Here is the silliness of asking commissioners to use GORA to get documents.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
9052
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 05/17/07 - 07:59 am
0
1
I believe a criminal

I believe a criminal investigation should already be underway into Mr Williams claims of having a copy of Mr Russells hard drive. This man has already admitted to a crime and should be censured and prosecuted. If I thougt my personal information were on it I'd call the FBI to investigate where and how Mr.Williams obtained it.

OMallen
0
Points
OMallen 05/17/07 - 08:03 am
0
1
Everyday that I read the

Everyday that I read the Augusta Chronicle, I am reminded why I moved from Augusta to Columbia County. Every day.

Unbelievable
85
Points
Unbelievable 05/17/07 - 08:08 am
0
1
The truest statement made by

The truest statement made by Marion Williams, "We're paying him $150 an hour, so he ought to talk with plain sense," he said. "He's talking in circles. I do that, but I don't get $150 an hour." I think hope they recorded that statement. Everytime he opens his idiot mouth in a commision meeting they should play it, "He's talking in circles. I do that"

Newsreader
11
Points
Newsreader 05/17/07 - 08:20 am
0
1
Thanks Lamb, because I was

Thanks Lamb, because I was wondering what FOI or GORA had to do with the information being disclosed to commissioners. I think the problem is regarding this issue the power has shifted away from Mr. Williams and 3 H's. I think the people of Augusta want to move forward, and not be bogged down in a witch hunt. If Mr. Williams has the hard drive, then he would know if it has data related to personal business. Therefore, Mr. Williams should have the information needed to move for an diciplinary action against Mr. Russell. We all know that Mr. Williams and Mr. Holland want Mr. Russell out, but Mr. Russell works for the commission, not a single Commissioner. It takes six votes and they know they only have four. Mr. Williams held the Mayor Pro Tem vote up for a full year, how long will he carry this issue? Augusta will certianly be better when Mr. William's term is over. That is my opinion, and even at $150/hour it would only be worth two cent.

PAW
0
Points
PAW 05/17/07 - 08:24 am
0
1
this is for marion williams

this is for marion williams and calvin holland.....in the inspiring words of austin rhodes...." game - point - match bite me"

intheknow
16
Points
intheknow 05/17/07 - 08:25 am
0
1
Augusta's citizens. Will not

Augusta's citizens. Will not let anything go. When a crime has been proven, then talk. All of this what if this, or what if that need to stop.

Khaaaaaan
2
Points
Khaaaaaan 05/17/07 - 08:25 am
0
1
If there was genuine concern

If there was genuine concern (and not a witch hunt) about Fred Russell, there would have been six votes in executive session to seize the hard drive (without warning) and have it inspected. Without six votes, these commissioners are powerless. Thank God.

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 05/17/07 - 08:33 am
0
1
Take a look at the last

Take a look at the last paragraph of the story. I can just imagine the sheriff's "inquiry." First, he asks Marion Williams how he got the copy of Russell's hard drive. Marion says, "I ain't gone tell you." Then the investigator asks around the IT department, "Do you know who slipped the hard drive copy to Williams?" Each IT employee says, "Goodness, no!" End of inquiry?

jackfruitpaper833
41
Points
jackfruitpaper833 05/17/07 - 08:34 am
0
1
Here here Williams on this

Here here Williams on this one (but sometimes you get on my nerves) change a word here or here and get what you need.

Raindance
2
Points
Raindance 05/17/07 - 08:37 am
0
1
The burning question, though

The burning question, though - what is ON that hard drive??

intheknow
16
Points
intheknow 05/17/07 - 08:59 am
0
0
Man, someone actually quoted

Man, someone actually quoted AUSTIN RHODES.

bigced79
0
Points
bigced79 05/17/07 - 09:02 am
0
1
At this point, who cares what

At this point, who cares what on the hard drive. We have waisted too much money already on something that could or could not exist and meanwhile the real issues in Richmond County are not being focused on.

shamrock
535
Points
shamrock 05/17/07 - 09:04 am
0
1
When Marion Williams says he

When Marion Williams says he talks "plain sense" (although he isn't paid $150 an hour) he is just talking "non sense". If there was anyone who could be found guilty of murdering the English language it would be Marion Williams.

1980reader
1
Points
1980reader 05/17/07 - 09:04 am
0
1
Good to see the folks down at

Good to see the folks down at the Commission are focusing on really important stuff, rather than the little problems we have with a decaying city, fleeing tax base, poor schools, and an image as a third-rate joke of a city. No wonder MCG is looking to move to Athens...wouldn't you?

crystalball
1
Points
crystalball 05/17/07 - 09:05 am
0
1
Charges should be brought

Charges should be brought against Williams, Holland and the person or persons that gave them the information from the hard drives. I hope the Sheriff doesn't drop this investigation. Enough is enough of how some of the commissioner's spend our tax money. If you are a commissioner you should know the laws. Easy to look up on the internet.

MJDW
0
Points
MJDW 05/17/07 - 09:12 am
0
1
My tax dollars wasted

My tax dollars wasted again.....................

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 05/17/07 - 09:20 am
0
1
Marion, I am glad you admited

Marion, I am glad you admited that you talk in circles. The educated general public already knows that. Now, will you and Mr. Holland not run again so Augusta can move forward without child like attitudes.

KingJames
10
Points
KingJames 05/17/07 - 09:20 am
0
1
Little Lamb, you brought out

Little Lamb, you brought out some very good information here that is important for the average citizen to understand about the process for obtaining information from the government. I would like to point out that you said there are limits to what elected officials can see because of "need to know." That's the point that the attorney is making. Williams and Holland haven't demonstrated a true need to know. They have just said they want the hard drive. For what reason? They won't say. They have got to be more specific if they want to obtain any information at all. Sadly, though, the way in which they have already conducted themselves has reduced the validity of any argument they may have been trying to make. Williams should have never stated that he has a copy of the hard drive. He should have just waited to make sure he was following protocol. He should have known that by saying he had the hard drive people would question how he got it and if he obtained it legally. Now he's saying he has it but doesn't know if he got it legally himself. That's Bass Ackwards! He should have requested specific information and said he had a need to know.

shepster
0
Points
shepster 05/17/07 - 09:35 am
0
1
you mean DEMONSTRATED a need

you mean DEMONSTRATED a need to know. Who in the WORLD is this ATTORNEY anyway? Has ANYONE EVER HEARD of an ATTORNEY making a ruling? IS it a ruling? This is ALL MESSED UP.

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