More funding is going toward an investigation and other potential actions over whether one Forsyth County commissioner accessed another’s emails without permission.
Commissioners voted 3-0, with District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent and District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills recused, at a work session on Tuesday to approve supplemental funding for an investigation into whether Levent accessed Mills’s emails that was performed by Thomas Bever of Smith, Gambrell and Russell, LLP, along with Spearhead Investigations, both out of Atlanta.
“I will leave it with this Madame Chair, my understanding is that the independent attorney has perhaps rolled past the initial amount that was funded for this,” County Attorney Ken Jarrard, who was not allowed to take part in the inquiry since he represents all of the commissioners, told Chairwoman Laura Semanson, “and they need to be compensated for those amounts, in addition to the extent the board has given any additional direction with respect of the July instructions, basically.”
The inquiry determined Levent had a county employee access emails and records of Mills without her knowledge or going through the state’s Open Records Act, sent a county-generated list of constituent emails to his campaign email address and passed those email addresses and other information to a candidate who was running against Mills in the June primary.
On Wednesday, Levent told Forsyth County News that he was surprised the commissioners would approve spending more on “a witch hunt that is inconclusive.”
Commissioners approved launching a formal inquiry into the issue and approved up to $20,000 for the investigation at a meeting in early May, but it appears the investigation has already nearly doubled that amount.
“Originally, $20,000 was what we had allotted for it. The actual bill for the investigation… was around $38,000,” District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper said during Tuesday’s meeting. “This is also to include any further fees that may come to conclude this investigation.”
Responding to a question from District 2 Commissioner Dennis Brown, Semanson said the total amount was not yet known.
Semanson said the extra funding would not expand the scope of the investigation beyond what was previously approved.
“I look at it this way: we’ve already rounded third base,” Semanson said. “Right now, at this point, if we want to take this to its final conclusion, we need to be able to have that ability.”