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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.”



People who have nothing to hide, hide nothing.

Sounds to me like Krakeel and Bennett may be leaving behind a legacy or they are just being spiteful and vindictive. Either way, the destruction of government property is wrong, a waste of time, and childish. Mr. Bennett, is this how you react with all of your clients?

Just hope Mr. Brown isn't on a witch hunt like Clayton or DeKalb counties.

tortugaocho's picture

Bennett sounds like Nixon when he appeared on national television, pointed to his neatly bound "edited" transcripts of his secret White House tapes and said "Trust me."

Husband and Father is right-- People who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. That was public property that should have stayed at Stonewall Village. It's scary to think what he erased.

Bennett already got burned by the emails showing his crooked dog and pony show in the court case.

Bennett deserves the same type of inquiry Nixon got, and Krakeel as well.

What a bunch of crooks.

suggarfoot's picture

Our outgoing bunch sure do paint a picture of conspiracy and attempt to hoodwink the taxpayers don't they?

Thank God a bunch of good people stepped forward to run for office and stop this. The people spoke. It seems their impression was they didn't want,or trust, what was in office, be it BOE or county commisioners... and now this kind of thing just solidifies our thoughts that we were right.

G35 Dude's picture

They had to know that doing this would make them look guilty of something. Yet they did it anyway. Maybe the logic was better to just look guilty than to be proven guilty.

They could have just removed the S & B from the keyboard if they wanted to make a point. Classless.

Krakeel obviously didnt take his job seriously since he got that sweet pension we are paying him. This is how he repays the county?

NUK_1's picture

Mr. Bennett, Steve Brown actually DOES have a right to go through your government-issued computer and so does any private citizen with some exceptions as outlined by the Open Records Act.

You talk about being worried about Social Security numbers being on the computer and then you take the hard drive off-site to be wiped and apparently take your sweet time about it. Do you not see anything maybe security-related that would be an issue here? DUH. There's a county IT department that is certainly capable of wiping a hard drive.

This really reeks and Bennett is yet another attorney that is ignorant of some of the laws he was entrusted to make sure the county followed. Now what will probably happen is the county is going to pay a data recovery firm to attempt to recover the wiped hard drive since there's a big red flag that you destroyed county property because you were worried about Brown(or anyone else) taking a look at what was on your GOVERNMENT COMPUTER.

The county was generous enough to give you a severance package and you really blew it here and made yourself look really bad.

ginga1414's picture

A lot of us have known for years that many things within Smith, Frady, and even Steele's administrations were being hidden. Otherwise, why did they work so hard to keep the public from speaking?

When we asked for specific documents pertaining to the WFB and the Rivers School, under the Open Records Act, why were we given massive amounts of paperwork that didn't contain or even pertain to the specific documents we asked to see?

Oh, there is something dead up the creek, alright. And, it stinks!

When we got too close to the truth concerning the WFB, Rivers School, the Board of Directors for the Bank of Ga., and the West Fayetteville Neighborhoods development, why did I start receiving intimadating e-mails from some of our then public officials?

Yep, those hard drives and the information there belonged to the Fayette taxpayers. That was our business. Bennett and Krakeel could have had their personal information wiped without getting rid of county information.

I don't care if Bennett's and/or Krakeel's county issued computers were six years old or sixty years old, they belong to the Fayette taxpayers and the information on the hard drives belonged to the taxpayers.

I've watched many commission meetings where Frady, Horgan, Hearn, Krakeel, and Bennett set issues to work against Brown and McCarty. It was blatantly obvious.

Nothing they've done would surprise me one whit.

ginga1414's picture

Some mighty good people worked tirelessly 24/7 for years to give the citizens of Fayette County a fair shot.

Of course Krakeel and Bennett are going to wipe hard drives.

I've got news for Mr. Bennett. The computer that he referred to as "my computer" isn't his computer at all. It belongs to the taxpayers of Fayette County. And, if I am remembering correctly, Mr. Bennett isn't a Fayette resident.

Who still uses a hard drive? Welcome to the cloud. Sounds like Fayette County IT needs to upgrade there systems.

highflyer2's picture

If the readers only knew HALF of what really went on in this county it would scare the hell out of them!
We use to call it "looking through rosé colored glasses".

Unless the county IT departments did a high level, lengthy, and ,under normal circumstances, unnecessary wipe, the data is recoverable. For a price. The nature of data storage on a hard drive allow for the data to be recovered unless they did some serious data removal. It cost upwards of $600 to recover it, but it is possible.

My guess is that there isn't much to recover. Emails will be saved on the FC server. Now, they could have easily been using a 3rd party email service like gmail, but the best you could recover from the wiped hard drive may be a username.

It is not abnormal to want to have your hard drive wiped when you leave a place. I don't believe that this action alone warrants a great deal of suspicion.

ginga1414's picture

The information that was discovered during research on the West Bypass/Veteran's Pkwy. proved that the county had been operating within a labyrinth of deceit.

Good riddance! Those bums couldn't get out fast enough.

rolling stone's picture

I doubt if there was anything on those computers that was actually lost to the citizens. I suspect that a bit (OK, maybe a lot) of paranoia and mistrust was the motive. Once a wiped hard drive is turned in, nothing can be added to it and then "found". I do not know these people but under the circumstances I believe they were prudent to clean the slate, after giving each other permission of course.

PTC Observer's picture

Created as a function of public service on public assets belongs to the public, it does not belong to the creator of the information. Wiping a hard drive, is distruction of public property.

This includes hard documents.

So, what would people think if he had gone out into the parking lot and burned all of the documents in his office?

rolling stone's picture

I don't think it was a good idea to go about it the way that they did however given the toxic political climate I am hesitant to throw stones.

I think that if they would have burned the office documents in the parking lot we would have a different scenario than we do now. For one thing, they would have needed a burn permit.

Personally, I do not put one keystroke into a computer that I would mind the whole world seeing, because they could.


PTC Observer's picture

Do we have a grand jury yet?

Where's Mr. Brown when you need him?

Y'know, if I had been Atty Bennett and had nothing to hide, I would have picked up my computer, taken it over to Commissioner Brown and said "
Here ya are Steve,knock yourself out!
From a personal experience, I know that when I officially retired from Civil Service, I walked away from my work computer that I had used for more than 2 yrs and didn't care what they did with it. Final analysis: if you're clean, you're clean!

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