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Date of Issue: April 15, 2010

Conoly jokes, defends records response

Conoly

Anna Maria planning and zoning board member Jim Conoly sent the city a letter April 9 explaining some of his actions following a request for his e-mails, the response he gave the city and the disposition of his home computer.

Conoly was served with a public records request March 10 from government watchdog Michael Barfield of Sarasota. Barfield asked Conoly for copies of all e-mails relating to public business sent or received on his personal computer.

Barfield filed a legal action last week claiming Conoly had not sent all of the requested e-mails and may have deleted some. An attorney representing Barfield filed the writ with the Manatee County Circuit Court asking that Conoly hand over his computer.

In his letter, Conoly wrote:  “This letter should clear up some questions regarding the e-mails I have forwarded the city recently.

“First, let me say that I have never knowingly deleted any city-related e-mails from my computer, and over the years, have conducted very little city business on the Internet. I hope you agree that I have responded to all the city requests in a timely manner and a spirit of cooperation.

“When I made a remark to Mr. Dye that my old computer was going to the Lena landfill, I was only joking. This will confirm in writing that my old computer was disposed of by donating it to the Salvation Army.”

Conoly apologized for the confusion caused by his joke, and suggested he should have kept his personal computer instead of giving it away. But he claimed he only gave away the computer after complying with Barfield’s request.

 “Each e-mail was forwarded to the city as individual e-mails,” Conoly said, “and for that reason, I believed they would be in an acceptable format and a part of the city of Anna Maria e-mail public records.”

While Conoly has said he does not have an attorney, he may be eligible for an appointed attorney under the city’s liability insurance with the Florida League of Cities.

 City attorney Jim Dye, in an April 9 e-mail to city clerk Alice Baird, said the city is not involved in the case of Barfield v. Stoltzfus and Conoly.

“Additionally, Commissioner Stoltzfus has independent counsel at this point,” wrote Dye.

But Dye suggested Conoly might be covered for legal counsel under the city’s insurance.

“I can’t tell from the e-mails whether this involves Mr. Conoly,” Dye continued, “and a decision has not been made on whether Mr. Conoly will get independent counsel or whether an attorney can be provided through the city’s insurance coverage.

“Even if counsel comes from insurance coverage, it won’t be me. I do appreciate being kept informed on all of this, however,” Dye concluded.

A spokesperson with the Florida League of Cities said the city would have to file a claim for legal counsel with the city’s insurance carrier to determine if Conoly is eligible for coverage.

Mayor Fran Barford was out of town April 9 and could not be reached for comment.

However, on contacting the Salvation Army in Bradenton, The Islander confirmed, in direct contrast to Conoly’s claim, that the charity does not accept computer donations.