Round 2013 between county commissioner Steve Brown and former county attorney Scott Bennett was fired on Monday when Bennett protested Brown’s attempts to have him investigated.
Last week, commissioner Steve Brown asked the Fayette County Marshal’s office to investigate a missing hard drive and laptop that had been used by Bennett before his departure at the end of December.
According to Brown, after newly appointed interim county attorney Dennis Davenport attempted to check the files on Bennett’s former computer at the county administrative complex he discovered the hard drive was missing from the computer. Additionally, it was determined that Bennett had not yet returned the county-issued laptop.
Brown said he’s asked the Fayette County Marshal’s office to investigate the possible ‘theft of county property’ and attempt to retrieve the missing drive and laptop.
According to a memo Brown sent to Chief Marshal Ed Collins, “our county staff discovered on January 3 that the hard drive.... has been stolen.”
Brown also said that Bennett had been terminated under “an unusual set of
circumstances and is currently in the midst of a lawsuit related to that situation.”
Moreover, Brown was upset because, as part of his defense against an ethics charge which had been lodged against him, he had intended to access the data on the hard drive to mount his defense.
“This is ridiculous,” said Bennett. “I had the permission of the county administrator [Jack Krakeel] to remove the laptop and hard drive.”
Bennett said the first he heard of the uproar was when IT manager Russell Prince called to tell him that the marshal’s department had been in to fingerprint his computer.
According to Bennett, at the time he was ready to leave he was to ask the IT department to ‘wipe’ the hard drive after county files that were needed were copied.
“You just don’t know what’s in that cache, passwords, social security numbers, proprietary information.”
On the last Sunday before he officially left the position, Bennett was in the office to close out some files, including a condemnation agreement that had been in the works since 2008, and, at that time, Prince was out of town. Instead of leaving it and the laptop, which Bennett said is six years-old and staffers told him was going to be retired, with possible proprietary information he took the laptop and hard drive with him.
“The laptop, I was told, was going to be shelved. The hard drive was going to be wiped, reloaded with new software and shelved for when someone needed it.
“Russell was going to be out of town so that wasn’t an option [erasing the hard drive] that last week. Then I was out of town for a week. I was told it wasn’t a big deal. As far as the laptop is concerned… I have a new one. What would I do with one six years old? More than that, it’s wiped clean and I don’t even have the installation disk if I wanted to use it. It’s worthless. I’ve done nothing wrong.”
More than that, he said, the idea that Brown would even consider the idea of a charge of theft of government property was ludicrous.
“If you entrust someone with something and they don’t return it, then it’s a civil tort of conversion. Theft is when someone takes something without permission. I had permission.”
Bennett returned the laptop and hard drive to the county offices on Monday afternoon.