For the past several months, Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams has been driving his colleagues crazy, demanding an investigation into computer files that were allegedly deleted off of former City Administrator Fred Russell’s computer.
Williams keeps insisting that the last thing the Augusta Commission should be afraid of is the truth.
“Mr. Russell was in a top position in this government and I’ve been told he has admitted that he deleted documents on his computer,” Williams said. “If that’s true, that threw up the red flag even harder and made me look even more.”
Williams insisted that Georgia law requires certain records to be retained for a specific length of time and he believes that Russell, or someone in the Information Technology Department, may have violated that law by deleting some of the information on the hard drive.
“I think it is criminal,” Williams insisted. “We are talking about paying Mr. Russell a severance package. I don’t think we owe anything because this could be criminal.”
After all, Williams continuously pointed out that the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office looked into accusations that he had taken a copy of Russell’s computer hard drive back in 2007.
But after looking into the allegations, the sheriff’s office determined that Russell’s computer had not been compromised.
“Former Sheriff Ronnie Strength sent his deputies to talk to me because they thought I had hacked the system and I told them I didn’t,” Williams said. “We need to send the sheriff or District Attorney Ashley Wright to investigate this because Mr. Russell can’t do that. That property belongs to the government.”
It got to the point that Williams was bringing up the city’s “computer-gate” scandal so much that some of his fellow colleagues simply began walking out of the chambers during the discussion.
“Here we go again,” one commissioner was heard saying, quickly exiting last week’s meeting.
After weeks of getting the runaround by his colleagues on the commission, Williams decided to take matters into his own hands.
Last month, Williams, without the commission’s knowledge, sent a letter to Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree requesting his department conduct an investigation into the matter.
In an extremely wise move on his part, Roundtree asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to handle the case and determine whether the GBI should conduct an investigation.
This week officials from the GBI announced there was no evidence that Russell had violated any law involving his computer’s hard drive. The GBI basically washed its hands of the entire matter.
So is this debate finally over?
If you believe that, you don’t know Marion Williams very well.
He insists that if Russell didn’t delete the files, someone must have because, when he requested a copy of the former administrator’s hard drive, he was less than thrilled with what the files contained.
“It was all fluff and stuff,” Williams said, explaining he received documents such as emails Russell sent to a couple of secretaries and photos of the improvements being made to the municipal building. “I requested five years of information and all you have is 100 different emails. There is nothing to it.”
Williams still believes those files are out there… somewhere. And he is determined to find them.