Handy Dandy Guide to the Thumb Drive

RCNN Saturday Night Special – March 21, 2015

By Peter Fallow, RCNN Special Contributor

This document is intended to serve as a guide for those who wish to explore the contents of the now infamous flash drive that has caused and continues to cause an uproar in Parkersburg. It provides proof of and insights into the affair between Mayor Bob Newell and Finance Director Ashley Flowers and the legally questionable steps they took to hide it. In total, there are over 1300 individual files on the drive. Most of them (over 650) are emails and pictures (over 560). For those who are offended by explicit sexual images, words and sounds, be forewarned there is some of each to be found.

Someone spent hours organizing this material before it was distributed. That someone clearly had extended access to Ms Flowers’ computer, phone and personal papers, given the the sheer vast amount of the material and the very intimate nature of some of it. For example, in the folder called “letters she wrote” there are several documents that appear to be letters addressed from Flowers to Newell. Some are pictures of handwritten pages written on notebook paper in pink ink. One Word document in the same folder, called “Unintentional Mistress,” is a 2000-word mess wherein the author tries to explain a relationship with a married man called “Big.” After recounting her mother’s history of man trouble, and the woes in her own life, the author details her feelings and subsequent affair with this man.

The widely circulated disk of material appears to have been painstakingly organized by the person or persons who created it. The main folder is labeled “mrbig,” which was in fact Finance Director Flowers’ (ironic, as it turns out) nickname for Mayor Bob Newell. Within that one folder are seven subfolders called “ashley digging through files,” “letters she wrote,” “new big,” “new from thanksgiving 2014,” “texts between mayor and ashley,” “texts from people in acct dept,” and “work mentioned etc.” At this top level of the “mrbig” folder are also 20 files, mostly screenshots of cellphone text conversations, three videos, an audio recording and a simple document file labeled “read this before reading text message convos”.

Of the more than 560 pictures on the disk, it should be emphasized that many of them are in fact screenshots from smartphones. Dozens of the actual pictures are inane, such as Newell and his sometime legal counsel Harry Dieztler partying heartily, Newell shaking hands with other politicos, and members of the Parkersburg police department playing dress up as wild west lawmen or members of the Untouchables. There are also pictures of Ms Flowers which are views of her anatomy only her gynecologist would previously have been exposed to. There are no explicit pictures or videos of Newell and Flowers together.

There are two explicit pictures and one video purported to be of the Mayor performing alone. The pictures are found in the folder “texts between mayor and ashley” (“IMG_2575” and “IMG_2576”). The 14 second video of a man self pleasuring appears more than once in the material and is most easily found in the main “mrbig” folder as “IMG_2132”. Though a face is not seen in the two pictures or the video, the screenshot of texts called “IMG_2918” appears to show Newell and Flowers discussing that he sent the video and she commented (rather over-enthusiastically) on it.

Another noteworthy file that has already received much coverage in the media (revealed first by River City News Network) is the audio recording located in the main “mrbig” file. Labeled “20140226 134311” it was presumably made using Flowers’ smartphone and is a record of a private meeting between her and the Mayor, wherein they decide how to best deceive members of city council and the media about budget revenues. They can be heard planning the deception then actually passing it along to a reporter from the “Parkersburg News and Sentinel.” After that is a lengthy discussion of their sordid private affairs.

There are several files throughout the material that focus on former WTAP anchor Denise Alex. Some are pictures of Ms Alex after her time at WTAP and some are copies of emails between her and Newell. Apart from some talk of plans to get together in Columbus, discussions of drunk phone calls and the like, there is nothing as explicit as between Newell and Flowers.

The Alex files and others such as screenshots of personal ads posted oncraigslist.org, and a screenshot showing the location of “Robert’s iPhone” at 11:16 AM (see “mrbig”>”new from thanksgiving 2014″>”IMG_4318″). At that time, Robert’s iPhone was on Winding Road. Since Newell admits in captured text messages that he is not tech savvy, he may not have known that the iPhone Flowers had given him could be used to track his movements. That location picture, the Alex materials and others clearly demonstrate that Flowers expected to catch Newell with other mistresses.

There are several other noteworthy files scattered throughout the disk. One (“mrbig”>”work mentioned etc”>”IMG_2765″) appears to be Flowers assuring Newell she can show him how to delete all text messages from a phone, thereby leaving no evidence of the affair.Presumably Flowers did not explain to Newell that by taking screenshots of her own phone, she could save records of their text conversations whether he wanted her to or not. It is also worth mentioning here that since Flowers claimed to use her personal phone for work, and received a $40 per month reimbursement from the city for that reason, all of her messages on that phone are regarded as public information, since it is thereby a taxpayer funded phone.

For those who enjoy irony, the file “mrbig”>”work mentioned etc”>”personal”>”Interesting Things From PC Backup”> “search-sex”>”Nichols” is regarding the 2004 dismissal of Dan Nichols, for sexual harassment. Mr. Nichols worked for the county’s 911 Call Center. While there he indulged in behavior which Newell could not ignore and dismissed Nichols over. The unforgivable scandalous behavior in question? Having lotion rubbed onto his back while at work. From the screen captures of conversations between Flowers and her staff, it is clear that those working the in city’s finance department knew very clearly when and where Flowers and Newell were having sexual relations in the city building during working hours.

To summarize, most of the material on the thumb drive is banal. Some is lurid. Those who are responsible for it lack any shame about having it circulated or they would have already resigned. More to the point, the material serves to provide the backdrop for the affair between Newell and Flowers. Further evidence of not just immoral but unlawful behavior is to be found in the records of the finance department that Flowers headed with no oversight. The most egregious incident uncovered so far is a trip taken by the pair in late October of 2014, which was ostensibly to visit the Joliet (Illinois) Slammers minor league baseball park. Though the city paid out nearly $1,000 for the trip, there is no evidence either of them made it any farther than Indianapolis to see a Fleetwood Mac concert and ordering room service up to their $500 a night hotel suite.

More questions linger however. Such as those regarding the mayor’s trip to Japan: who accompanied Newell and what capacity did that person serve while on the trip? How many affairs with other city employees has Newell conducted over the years? How many of those women were subordinates at the time of the affairs? Was the city purchase of property owned by Newell’s son as scrupulous as it was well-timed for the younger Newell’s benefit? Constant readers know that RCNN is the one place to find the unvarnished truth about these and other matters, so stay tuned.

About Callie J Lyons

Callie Lyons is an investigative journalist and author living in the Mid Ohio Valley. Her first book, Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal: The Hidden Dangers of C8, is available at Amazon.com and in hundreds of libraries all over the world. Known as a "warrior for public health", Lyons' environmental investigations have been featured in documentaries, including Good Neighbors - Bad Blood and Toxic Soup, on Swedish National Television and in numbers of television, radio and print media interviews. Her work has appeared on Nova's Whiz Kids and in Mother Jones magazine. More recently, a national audience has come to know her award-winning investigative work through the Environmental Working Group and interviews with leading publications like the Huffington Post and The Intercept. Lyons' work was featured in the 2017 documentary Parched:Toxic Waters by National Geographic. The Short, Fantastic Life of a Saloon Girl is Lyons' first published work of historical fiction.
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