Departing Fayette officials erase their digital trails
Former county attorney admits removing, keeping hard drives from county-owned computers
Even though he had the hard drives on his county office computer and county laptop computer “wiped” before turning them back in, former Fayette County Attorney Scott Bennett insists no county records were destroyed in the process.
Not only were there hard copies of all legal and other documents stored in his county office, but all of Bennett’s emails were archived by the county’s email system, he said.
“There’s a hard copy of every one of those documents filed in the cabinets,” Bennett said Monday.
New Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown reported Friday that Bennett’s hard drive from his office computer was missing along with Bennett’s laptop computer. Bennett explained that he got approval from former County Manager Jack Krakeel, whose hard drive was wiped by county information systems staff, to also wipe both of Bennett’s computer hard drives.
Bennett noted that Krakeel copied all necessary county records onto a thumb drive before having his hard drive wiped.
Bennett said his main concern about the hard drives on his county computers was that Brown would seek to go through the computers and try to find something to discredit him.
Because the laptop was six years old and the hard drive from his desktop was easily replaceable, Bennett said he wasn’t in a huge rush to turn the items back in. Bennett said the county’s information systems director told him the laptop was being taken out of service anyway due to its age and condition, so there was no rush on returning it.
Brown said the county marshal’s office, which provides security for county property, was conducting an internal investigation on the matter.
There was no backup of Bennett’s then-missing hard drive from his office workstation, which Brown said is a cause for concern.
“A lot of people, including me, would like to know what’s on it,” Brown said, calling the missing hard drive “theft of county property.”
Bennett said that Krakeel authorized him taking the desktop hard drive off county property to have the data removed.
Bennett said most of the data on the drive included drafts and legal notes, such as excerpts from cases germane to the legal filings he presented on behalf of the county, which are also public record and on file in various courts, he noted.
“There was nothing on either one of them,” Bennett said of the hard drives, adding that he worried about cached data such as health information and social security numbers being on the hard drives prior to them being wiped clean.
Brown said he intended to access information from Bennett’s hard drive “after they left” with the intent of “going through files.”
The wiped hard drives will likely thwart that completely. Which was exactly the point, Bennett said, adding that he felt Brown would go through the computer files to try and “trump something up against me.”
“This is all because Steve wanted to go through my hard drive to try and drag something up on me,” Bennett said. “He told somebody that. He said he was convinced I had done something unethical and he was going to find it on my computer.”
Bennett later added: “Steve has no right to go snooping through my computer. That’s what he was wanting to do.”