Sarasota News Leader

03/08/2013

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Sarasota News Leader March 8, 2013 Page 27 pedestrians, but serving carts, waiters and lawful. The problem comes up, if you have custody [of the public record] but you can't shifting tables often narrow that gap. produce it," he said. "[Barfield is] requesting The city is about to install much wider sidea mandamus injunction to prevent advisory walks downtown and some commissioners boards from using their personal computers hope the pedestrian pathway can be expanded to send public records." in the process. "We think this might be a strange and unusu"We're about to undertake a huge public in- al suit," added Fournier. "It might not be recvestment in widening the sidewalks, and we ognized. It's unprecedented. There's no other don't want to end up with just five feet," said suit like it in Florida." Commissioner Terry Turner. Fournier also briefed the Downtown ImproveStaff was instructed to start looking into the ment District on the subject on March 5. issue of pedestrian access. "We agree board members should be urged to THE PUBLIC RECORDS SUIT use their official [email] accounts," he said. "If City Attorney Bob Fournier in past weeks somebody believes somebody individually has has briefed at least two city advisory boards a public record on their [private] computer, about what he has called an "unprecedented" they should come forward and ask for it. We'd lawsuit filed by Michael Barfield, legal advisor need some indication of what the record was to the Sarasota chapter of the American Civil in order to respond. The city would be responLiberties Union, to produce public records not sible for their [legal] defense. This suit isn't about asking to see a specific record." on city computers. Fournier added that things are moving "slowly." The main allegation is that advisory board members are avoiding public records laws by using personal email accounts, he said. "Nothing in the statutes forbids official communication on personal computers. This also Fellow DID member Kaufman said he did, too. deals with Planning Board members and for"I may have deleted some. I delete and then mer Charter Review Board members," added go through the trash and delete them again." Fournier. "You cannot enjoin something that is not unlawful." Unfortunately, Barfield at the time was requesting emails from April, and when he heard Barfield has participated in several public reabout the regular deletions, he amended his cords and open meeting lawsuits in the past several years, prevailing on most. But Fournisuit to seek unspecified records. er maintains this one is different. Fournier told the Planning Board on Feb. 27, "The case involves allegations board members "This suit isn't about asking to see a specific rehave emails on their [private email] accounts cord," he said again March 5. "If litigated, I think that are public records. That is not really un- there is a good chance we will prevail." % The suit originated in September, when two members of the Downtown Improvement District said publicly that they delete email. William Pettey noted during a Sept. 18 DID meeting, "I routinely delete them."

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