(This post includes important updates from my primary source about the Feb. ’21 Coffee County meeting… story begins below)

As it turns out, not everybody enjoys living behind a wall of secrecy.

In researching and interviewing for my first piece in this series, “Piercing ‘cone of silence’ in Coffee County,” I called and emailed a number of folks who are in a position to comment on the 2021 intrusion and what, if anything, is being done to correct it. Even though I only got one person to comment anonymously, those outreach efforts have since paid dividends.

EXCLUSIVE: Piercing ‘cone of silence’ in Georgia’s ’21 Coffee County breach [Blog Series]—UPDATED

Andy Thomas, Coffee County elections official who joined the board shortly before the mysterious meeting on 25 Feb 2021 (for which meeting minutes and official attendance have been called into question by activists), told me in a phone interview that Coffee officials should be more forthcoming about what actually happened during the January 7th breach.

“My biggest thing is we should be straightforward with everybody,” he says. “We really don’t know what was being done about it. We’re not being told by the attorneys or any of the other members or commissioners what is going on. So I’ve been a little taken back by the fact that I had to learn most of this from Mr. Hudson.”

The “Mr. Hudson” to which Thomas refers is Jim Hudson, longtime Coffee resident who has challenged chairman Wendell Stone and others at recent meetings. (note: Hudson’s testimony can be viewed at YouTuber Packy McKibben’s channel.)

“I have to tell you, I was not happy about [learning details from Hudson],” Thomas says. “With his proposal, we asked to have a meeting to decide what we need to do. Because I don’t know if budget-wise the board can actually come forward and say, ‘Hey, we’d like a private investigation on this.'” Thomas, a former serviceman who spent 15 years with Air Force, adds that, on principle, when constituents demand answers, the board should comply.
“If you’ve got private citizens asking for answers, I think we should do our best to get them the answers they’re looking for.”
Pictured: Coffee County meeting minutes, as submitted for 25 Feb 2021. my sources say there are deficiencies in this document about meeting attendance and content

In a follow-up, fact-checking interview, Andy Thomas confirmed to me that ALL election-board members and 3 county commissioners were in attendance for the now-disputed meeting on 25 Feb 2021 (see minutes, pictured above). Which means, say sources, these minutes don’t reflect what actually happened during the hastily called meeting. The substantive portion of the meeting occurred behind closed doors in “executive session,” on the false premise that only the election board members and their attorney were there discussing the legally limited topics of employee discipline and threatened/pending litigation.

“The document produced are the ‘public’ meeting minutes from the few minutes of public session before and after the improper closed door executive session,” says Marilyn Marks, Executive Director of Coalition for Good Governance. “Executive-session minutes are not public and required to state the substantial contents of that meeting so that a record is kept, but those required executive session minutes do not exist, according to the county attorneys at Hall Booth Smith.

“And since now their executive session is proven illegal by attendance of 3 commissioners,” Marks continues, “the board of elections need to correct the election-board minutes and disclose all that occurred behind closed doors. Further, the County Commissioners conducted an improper meeting of a quorum in attending the ‘secret meeting’ of the election board. They need to provide full minutes of that meeting. All the while, county attorneys for Hall Booth Smith have stated in response to subpoenas and open records requests that no such meeting of commissioners occurred, despite multiple eyewitness reports.”

Why is this important, and how does this make a difference about who was there and what was said? Because the content of that meeting will disclose the answer to “what did they know (about the breach), and when?”

Seeking truth… without unanimity

Fabulous local reporter Robert Preston of DouglasNow.com reports (which I confirmed in my interview with Andy Thomas) that Coffee County election officials will meet on Tuesday, 20 June 2023, to consider Mr. Hudson’s motion to seek an internal investigation of the January 2021 breach. Thomas tells me seeking to reveal the truth of what happened is not a unanimous objective on the board, and mystery still abounds.
Raffensperger’s office was more interested in covering up the breach instead of pursing justice and protecting our voting system—David Dreyer
“There are a couple of board members in agreement with having this meeting, and some are not, so I’m not sure how it’s going to go from here,” he says. “I’m a little embarrassed by the fact that we’re not enlightened on what has been going on. I had to find out from a private citizen, and we wouldn’t have known what was happening if I hadn’t turned on the news. So it’s sad that our higher ups or the county itself have not given us any guidance or information other than when this thing first started. But from there, I think my personal feeling was they thought that it was being investigated and they would take it from there. So I’m not sure where we’re at.”
Both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Brad Raffensperger’s office claim they are “investigating” the matter, but open-source evidence points to a slapdash, stop-start approach to the probe, which included an ill-fated decision to target citizens trying to uncover the truth. More recently, GBI asked for Misty Hampton’s laptop long after the breach occurred.
Based on my reporting, we ought to view the odd-investigative pace through the same lens as Raffensperger’s shifting timeline of what he learned of the Coffee County breach, and when. The Secretary of State’s office has not responded to requests for comment.

Raffy has more explaining to do

Despite reporting that the Coffee County breach in ’21 was part of a larger conspiracy organized by The Former Guy’s inner circle, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (whose explanations are thus far inconsistent at best) and GBI appear to be in no hurry to pull threads on sweaters. David Dreyer, former Democratic representative for District 59 in Georgia, tells me exclusively that Raffensperger needs to get his rear in gear.
former Georgia House rep David Dreyer

“The Coffee County machine intrusion took place in January 2021. It sure seems like Secretary Raffensperger’s office was more interested in covering up the breach instead of pursuing justice and protecting our voting system until the intrusion became a news story.” Dreyer’s partner is Bee Nguyen, who ran against Raffensperger as the Democratic nominee for Secretary of State.

In an email exchange, Dreyer pointed to the episode where bail bondsman (and prominent-Atlanta businessman) Scott Hall paid to charter the plane carrying operatives to breach Coffee-election equipment. “It should be bigger news that someone who’s repeatedly lobbied for bail-bond industry at the Capitol, Scott Hall, chartered the plane to fly folks to commit potentially criminal conduct related to election-conspiracy lies.”
In June 2021, mere months after the Coffee County breach, Scott Hall was forced to resign from his company after getting ensnared in a dispute with Gwinnett County sheriff.
In fact, Scott Hall factors more prominently than first thought, as pointed out by Twitter sleuth and reporter Jenny Cohn. Hall was caught on tape discussing the voting-system breach in Feb. 2022—and a few months later, Sterling made public comments at the Carter Center stating the breach “didn’t happen.”

Pressure to stay quiet remains

For his part, Andy Thomas isn’t 100% sure the meeting on 20 June will happen as planned. “We might get in there and they will say, ‘Hey, we can’t do this.’ And it would not surprise me. It wouldn’t surprise me if they try to keep us from meeting on Tuesday.” (Writer’s note: See my update on that below)
When I asked him about how the criticisms of how GBI has handled the Coffee Co. thus far, Thomas declined to answer directly but he did note that, to his knowledge, nobody’s been questioned for quite some time. “I don’t think anybody here has been questioned by them since I believe August [of ’22]. They originally contacted some of the members. I’ve been involved in a couple of situations where these investigations take quite a while, but I mean, it’s been two years, so it does seem to have taken a very long time.”
He continues: “Questions come to me like, Is the Secretary of State’s office involved in the investigation? Is the FBI? Because I want to have confidence and faith in our system that somebody is investigating like they need to. Our primary goal should be an investigation so we can prevent this from ever happening again.”
As the situation currently stands, unknown amounts of election data and software are floating around the country, with a distinct possibility election terrorists will use it to exploit a future election—perhaps 2024, according to sources. Voting officials (in Georgia especially) are all quick to champion elections as “safe and secure” but are simultaneously treating Coffee County breach like it was a small, trivial matter, an attitude that apparently includes Dominion Voting, too. (Dominion Voting has still not responded to requests for comment.)


Andy Thomas says securing all elections should be Job No. 1. “As far as what happened in Coffee, we can’t do anything about it now, unfortunately. But I do want to instill the trust for our public. That’s our main goal at this point. and not just here, nationwide. It’s the question of the day: How can we make people feel more comfortable about voting? I think there’s still a lot of work to be done there.” ⚖️

YouTuber Packy McKibben contributed to this story. Subscribe to Packy’s feed here.

UPDATE: As recently as *April 2022* (15 months after the Coffee County intrusion) we have Georgia republican officials, on tape, denying it even happened. Watch Gabe Sterling below:

UPDATE 2 (16 June 2023 @ 1:20 p.m.): reached by phone for a fact-checking/follow-up interview, Andy Thomas confirmed to me that ALL board members and 3 commissioners were in attendance during that hastily called meeting on 25 Feb 2021. I’ve updated the story to reflect that, as well as comment from Marilyn Marks.

Will Pollocksideways is a perpetually crabby New York City escapee based in Midtown Atlanta. He’s a freelance multimedia journalist, media analyst and author of three books (award-winning Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), and his first children’s book, Gentle with Gertie.

In 2001, Will earned his Masters from The Medill School of Journalism, graduating with highest honors from the magazine sequence. As permanent member of Journalism’s National Honors Society, he’s been active in monitoring, writing and blogging about media and journalism ever since he graduated.

Obsessed with good storytelling and journalistic excellence, Will uses snark, humor and reason to distill dumb shit and make it fun. He’s a seeker/maker of non-consensus news, and helps you cure crankies by finding the nut in every story.

As for-profit media continues to fail us, it’s more important than ever to find reliable sources. Authentic storytelling exists—you just have to look for it. On this blog you’ll get ideas, not ideology. Sass with class. Reporting with rapport. Evidence with a touch of evil. You get the idea.

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