Courthouse surveillance sweep yields nothing

by Martha Smith
At the Jackson County Commission meeting held on Monday, January 25, 2021, Interim Chairman Jason Venable gave an update on the counter-surveillance sweep that was done at the courthouse after allegations of covert surveillance surfaced. Venable held a four-page report as he gave the results.
Venable stated, “Based on the examinations, the writer is of the opinion that no video evidence or active covert video/audio/collection evidence was identified in the area examined during the time of these examinations.”

According to Venable, the person who performed the sweep is from a company in Birmingham and is the same person hired for the Bench and Bar, who swept the entire upstairs of the courthouse, such as offices, judge’s chambers, courtrooms, etc., along with the bottom floors. According to EMA Director, Paul Smith, the sweeps lasted until almost midnight. Each department head was present and directed to ensure every possible area was covered.

The sweep came after the commission announced on December 21, 2020 that an investigation was underway by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency involving an allegation of inappropriate surveillance of a Jackson County Employee at the Jackson County Courthouse.

At the meeting held on Monday, January 4, 2021, Commissioner Danny Rich spoke to the public during comments, stating, “Everybody, just trust in the Commission. We’re going to make the best decision for the people of Jackson County. If you ever sit up here in our shoes, everything’s not clear-cut and as easy as it looks to be. You’ve got to make decisions that affect three or four things at once, and you’ve got to decide on who to take care of. I always want to take care of the people of Jackson County and our employees. We’ll do our best to get the courthouse swept.”

“The actual work was very thorough,” Venable continued. “He went over several different techniques and ways to identify if anything was there that wasn’t supposed to be. I felt very comfortable with the work that he did.”

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