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Saturday, October 22, 2016
Sheriff sued by blogger for warden-related computer seizure, By Michael Wetzel Staff Writer Updated 8 hrs ago
Blogger Comments in Blue:
There you go again Barney. Barney had to admit in open court that he did not mean to lead folks to believe the computers was sent to the forensics laboratory. Were you lying then Barney or you just pulling a little Fibber McGee.
The Sheriff's actions against Straightline Drywall and Acoustical, LLC, had nothing to do about the company. The sheriff has been heard multiple times ranting at her employees and demanding that if they spoke to the the whistleblower, they would be fired. Sheriff Franklin did not want any of this information to come up because she has lied to the public, the citizens, to the State Attorney General, to her lawyer, and to her employees. We have been duped.
Sheriff Ana Franklin told her employees yesterday that she was going to a Grand Jury on fired Warden Leon Bradley. If Ana's lips are moving, you know you are about to be in Spin City.
As to the return of the computers to the company. That is another Fibber McGee. The Morgan County Sheriff's Office returned the Computers over Attorney Griff Belser. Attorney Belser turned the computers over to an Information Technology (IT) Group to mirror the hard drives to conduct forensic analysis on the systems. FYI! The company Straightline hired to mirror the hard drives witl have the computers set up back in the Straightline business by lunch time on Monday. Mirroring hard drives is relatively simple and will take less than a day to complete the process on ALL of the computers. We can't help but wonder why it took two weeks for the Sheriff's 'experts' (or the State if the equipment was actually sent down there) for accomplish this relatively simple task. Unless, of course, it was their aim to 'punish' a reputable company because they were offended when the blog published the truth. The State Attorney General Luther Strange would not be involved in that kind of activity. Would he?
Keeping the record straight. Sheriff Ana Franklin, shame on you for intentionally trying to destroy a reputable company. Franklin could not attack a citizen whistleblower so she chose to violate the First Amendment Rights of a company.
An Alabama Open Record Request will be submitted to the State Attorney General's office to question any knowledge he may have of the systems being turned over to State Forensics.
By Michael Wetzel Staff Writer
A Falkville woman claims Sheriff Ana Franklin temporarily shut down her 31-employee business and terminated Morgan County Jail Warden Leon Bradley in retaliation for her blog critical of the sheriff.
Glenda Lockhart, owner and president of Straightline Drywall, of Falkville, filed a federal lawsuit naming Franklin and three Morgan County deputies as defendants. In the lawsuit, Lockhart and Straightline claim the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office conducted an illegal seizure of the company’s computers and violated Lockhart’s right to free speech.
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are deputies Chad Smith, Robert Wilson and Blake Robinson.
Lockhart said after a hearing at the federal building in Birmingham on Friday morning that her computers were returned to her attorney’s office.
Lockhart said Franklin seized numerous computers and electronic devices from her workplace because of a blog she manages called Morgan County Whistleblowers.
“I absolutely believe this is in retaliation against the whistleblowers,” Lockhart said Friday.
Lockhart's lawsuit alleged Franklin and the other defendants' "unlawful and unjustified actions were taken in an effort to suppress and retaliate against Lockhart's lawful speech in the Whistleblower Blog."
“This has absolutely nothing to do with that website,” she said. “That thing has been going on for years.”
According to the search warrant affidavit, signed by Robinson, "law enforcement documents that were under the care and control of Leon Bradley were published on the 'Morgan County Whistleblower.' "
The Sheriff's Office executed the search warrant on Lockhart's business one day after executing a similar search warrant at Bradley's home. Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson issued both warrants.
The Oct. 5 search warrant affidavit for Lockhart's business states the search of Bradley's residence showed he forwarded work emails to his personal email address, and "this email was then forwarded to Glenda Lockhart, the administrator of the blog."
Bradley, the warden for 13 years, was fired Oct. 14 after “an ongoing investigation.” Franklin said the investigation involved computer tampering, which can be classified as a misdemeanor or felony. No charges have been filed against the former warden.
“We are still analyzing the evidence and I’m not sure when criminal charges may be levied,” Franklin said.
Bradley said he was served with a notice of Franklin's intent to terminate him at the time his Southwest Decatur home was searched.
Bradley declined comment Friday afternoon.
According to Robinson's affidavit in support of the Lockhart search, a “reliable confidential informant stated that he saw law enforcement sensitive documents as emails and also hard copy files at the office of Glenda Lockhart at the business of Straightline Drywall.”
Robinson also cited a confidential informant in support of the search warrant for Bradley's home.
Morgan County sheriff's deputies seized 17 items from Straightline, according to the search warrant return, including computers, USB flash drives and collections of documents.
“I’m very happy for the return of our computers,” Lockhart said. “We have a lot of catching up to do as we have not had access to our computers for more than two weeks.”
Franklin said she understands the seizure of equipment hurt the business.
“We made arrangements above normal time to get the computers back to her as quickly as possible,” the sheriff said.
She said the majority of the items seized have been returned and the remainder will be returned following the conclusion of forensic analysis.
Lockhart said representatives of Straightline, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office attorney Barney Lovelace and Franklin attended the Friday morning hearing in Birmingham.
Lovelace said the Sheriff's Office voluntarily returned Lockhart's computers Friday, 16 days after they were seized.
"The items were returned after the state forensic analysts had completed copying the hard drives and retained them for examination," Lovelace said.
The Sheriff's Office had opposed the federal court's involvement in the case, saying it was a matter for the state courts. The court on Friday morning, however, rejected the argument.
Straightline is a federal contractor that installs specialty drywall and acoustical products, primarily in federal structures. The lawsuit claims the company could not conduct business without the seized electronic devices. Straightline said in the suit the seized property included information involving $5 million of ongoing contract data and about $35,000 in software.