Bennett returned the equipment last week after being contacted by Collins’ office. The equipment was returned to the head of the information systems department.
“At this point in the investigation, no intent to illegally take or withhold the computer or hard drive was discovered,” Collins said in his memo. “But the issue of the missing data the hard drives may or (may) not have contained is still under investigation.”
An expert on records laws said the case raises concern.
“Destruction of public records may constitute a violation of the Georgia Records Act,” said Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that promotes transparency in government. “The Secretary of State’s office maintains schedules of records and any time a public agency destroys public records, there’s cause for concern.”
Last fall, then-commissioner Robert Horgan cited friction between Bennett and two board members as a reason for his dismissal from his $130,000 a year job. Bennett received about six months’ severance.
“Scott has saved the county hundreds of thousands of dollars in the work he’s done,” Horgan said. “There’s nothing wrong with his performance.”
But Fayette County Commission Chair Steve Brown who called for an investigation into Bennett’s missing computer and hard drive criticized Bennett and Krakeel’s decisions to wipe clean their hard-drives. Brown said investigators in Collins’ office have indicated that chances of recovering the erased information would be slim.
“Scott knew once he left we’d go through his computer,” Brown said. “There’s no doubt information we were looking for was being erased.”
Brown said he was intending to review the information on Bennett’s hard drive to see if any information on it was relevant to an ethics case he’s involved in. Brown faces the ethics board on Wednesday to answer allegations regarding his decision to seek advice from the attorney general’s office about Bennett’s alleged ties to the Peachtree City attorney’s decision to sue the county.