‘Data wipe’ probe now at a standstill

Fayette County officials have been unable to recover the information that was “wiped” from the computer hard drives used by former county staff attorney Scott Bennett.

That essentially has stalled a probe by the county marshal’s department, which conducts in-house investigations for county government.

Chief Marshal Ed Collins noted that he will keep the investigation open for now, but since Bennett had permission from then-county manager Jack Krakeel to wipe the data off the two hard drives, there is no criminal case to be made for either theft or misuse of government property.

“Without some evidence as to what was on them, we are really sitting here kind of spinning our wheels,” Collins said Monday afternoon.

Collins said the county’s information systems staff has been unable to recover the data, and that he has been told the drives were formatted, which prevents access to them.

However, there is hope that an individual might come forward with further information about the probe and that is the reason the case is being left open for now, Collins added.

“We’re keeping the option open that someone may say something to move us in a different direction,” Collins said. “... It would be nice to clear up one way or the other.”

Bennett has maintained that no county records were destroyed in the process, as there were hard copies of all legal documents and others stored in his county office along with all his emails that were archived in the county’s email system. Bennett also noted that former county administrator Krakeel authorized him taking the computer off county property to remove the data.

The probe was tipped off earlier this month after Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown attempted to access information from Bennett’s desktop office computer, which led to the discovery that the hard drive was missing along with Bennett’s county-issued laptop.

Collins noted that Bennett returned the hard drive and laptop quickly, and because he was allowed to take them off property with permission of the county manager, it negates any theft charges.

Bennett told The Citizen that one of the reasons he wanted the information wiped off the hard drives was due to his belief that Brown would scour the hard drive to find something to discredit him. Bennett’s contract ended last year and Brown was trying to access the hard drive after Bennett left employment with the county.

Brown has contended that the wiping of the hard drives resulted in destruction of public records contrary to Georgia open records laws.

Brown and Bennett have been political adversaries behind the scenes, and the relationship spilled over into the public domain last week as they faced off in the ethics hearing against Brown on two complaints lodged by former county Commissioner Robert Horgan.

highflyer2
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GBI

Come on! Let's let the marshals get back to checking fishing license and call the GBI in to investigate, at least it won't stink so bad.

myother
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destroyed government property

Is it not against the law to destroy government property? It does not matter that there may or may not be another copy in the file cabinet. It does not matter what or what not was in the emails and documents. The data on the hard drive was government property and it was destroyed.

PTC Observer
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Marshal Collins - But

"Chief Marshal Ed Collins noted that he will keep the investigation open for now, but since Bennett had permission from then-county manager Jack Krakeel to wipe the data off the two hard drives, there is no criminal case to be made for either theft or misuse of government property."

What charges will be brought against Mr. Krakeel for the destruction of public property in the form of his intentional "wiping' of his county owned computer hard drive?

What is going to be done about this?

Husband and Fat...
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Protocols

The question should be, why is there not a protocol in place to copy all computer files daily on county computers (including commissioners). In addition, there needs to be protocol in place to obtain data from people employees who leave by choice, fired, or loss in election.

The county manager had no right to approve the scrub of his or anyone elses computer.

The problem that can and will occur will be employees using their personal emails.

PTC Observer
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HF - I agree with you,

however, the law was broken by both of these people. One is clearly guilty of destruction of public property and records, the other is using the first as a way to avoid blame and/or guilt. It appears as if it may be a conspiracy to me.

Then the bigger question is what were they hiding? I would say there should be a complete audit of the accounts and specifically monies controlled by these two individuals. What "deals" did they have between them and/or people they knew. Public officials don't go out and destroy public records and risk prosecution unless they have a pretty good reason. What is it?

My question still stands, what is law enforcement going to do about this?

Should a Grand Jury be involved in this investigation? Let's not let the "insiders" blow it off, let's get to the bottom of it.

Husband and Fat...
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Need protocols in place

I don't know what you can do now. Call in the FBI for their expertise? Doubtful. The problem lies in the lack of protocols. There should be a way to backup all county govt computers, even laptops when logged into the system. There also should be a protocol for the retrieval of the computers and hard drives before each employee has a chance to sabotage their computer along with a fine or jail time for deliberate or accidental destruction.

One problem is the use of personal computer and email use to get around the system. This, I would bet is commonly utilized by all.

Perhaps Mr. Barlow can come to the rescue like the proposed drug test of commissioners and propose these simple protocols be put into place following his interview and approval of the next religious group wanting to perform the next invocation prayer and kumbaya session. He can call this the " Krakeel/Bennett computer turnover protocol"

I would suspect that the other commissioners would think twice about putting this in place as it will affect the way they also communicate amount one another.

It seems the laws permit a rogue county manager to do whatever he pleases and get away with a nice pension.

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