Erased county computer: ‘No intent to illegally take’
However, probe into wiped data continues, says Fayette chief marshal
An investigation by Fayette County Chief Marshal Edward Collins into the missing hard drive from former county attorney Scott Bennett’s work computer concluded that there was no intent to illegally take or withhold the computer or hard drive. Pertaining to the data on the hard drive, Collins said that issue is still under investigation.
Bennett prior to the conclusion of his work in December as county attorney said he had his laptop computer “wiped” before turning it in. Bennett maintained that no county records were destroyed in the process. He said there were hard copies of all legal and other documents stored in the county office, adding that all his emails were archived by the county’s email system. Bennett further noted that outgoing County Manager Jack Krakeel had authorized him to take the computer off county property to have the data removed.
Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown on Jan. 4 met with Collins and requested an investigation after finding Bennett’s computer missing in early January. Brown in a Jan. 4 letter said the hard drive from Bennett’s computer had been “stolen,” that Bennett had been terminated under unusual circumstances relating to current litigation and he questioned “Mr. Bennett’s action [which] I believe could be either unethical or illegal.”
Collins said an initial search for the missing computer and hard drive showed they were missing. Collins on Jan. 7 said a conversation between Bennett and county information systems (IS) director Russell Prince determined that Krakeel had given Bennett permission to take the hard drive to be cleaned of personal information such as passwords and his Social Security number. Collins then contacted Krakeel, who advised that he had given Bennett permission since there were no IS staff members available at that time to “clean” the hard drive.
Bennett later on Jan. 7 brought the laptop computer and hard drive to Collins. Having reiterated what Krakeel said, Bennett told Collins all the information needed by the new county attorney was in file cabinets and on the county network, according to the investigation. Bennett also advised that he was available to discuss any ongoing issues with the new county attorney, the report said.
Asked why he waited until Dec. 31 (Bennett’s last day on the job) to attempt the cleaning, Bennett said he had been working on and finalizing a county condemnation case, Collins said.
Citing his conclusion, Collins said, “At this point in the investigation, no intent to illegally take or withhold the computer or hard drive was discovered, but the issue of the missing data the hard drive may or may not have contained is still under investigation.”
There was no room for doubt that Bennett would be losing his position as county attorney when the new board was seated in January.
Bennett in prior statements 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.
“This is all because Steve wanted to go through my hard drive to try and drag something up on me,” Bennett said previously. “He told somebody that. He said he was convinced I had done something unethical and he was going to find it on my computer.”