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Date of Issue: April 14, 2010

Anna Maria public records furor churns on

Stoltzfus

The battle in Anna Maria over public records grew substantially last week, and city attorney Jim Dye cautioned that more legal action should be expected.

A writ filed April 8 by lawyers for legal consultant Michael Barfield of Sarasota asked the court to order the computer hard drives of Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus and planning and zoning board member Jim Conoly be surrendered for inspection.

At the same time, Anna Maria residents Robin Wall, Nicky Hunt, former Commissioner Duke Miller and Cathy Stoltzfus, wife of Harry Stoltzfus, have yet to respond to an official records request from Barfield.

Barfield made his request two weeks ago as part of his investigation into e-mails that pertain to city business to and from Stoltzfus.

Barfield alleged that Wall, Hunt and Miller were operating a “shadow government” with Stoltzfus and may have e-mails showing they conducted official city business “off the radar.” Barfield also has alleged Stoltzfus may have used Wall, Hunt, Miller and his wife, Cathy, as conduits to send and receive information to other elected and appointed city officials.

Efforts to reach Hunt, Miller and Cathy Stoltzfus were unsuccessful, but Wall said she has retained Tampa attorney Richard Harrison of the law firm of Alan Dell, P.A. She directed all further inquiries to Harrison.

Calls and e-mails placed to Harrison were not returned.

Meanwhile, Jim Dye sent a memo April 7 to city clerk Alice Baird for distribution to all elected and appointed city officials and city staff reminding them of duties under Florida’s Sunshine and public records laws and warned that litigation about public records is coming. He said city officials should save and make public all e-mails that might be considered a public record.

“As we know, some kind of litigation regarding public records is imminent,” wrote Dye.

“I’ve been told the city will not be named as a party. Still, please, let the city officials, both elected and volunteers, know that they are not to delete public records from their personal computers.

“I’m afraid for right now this instruction needs to include those e-mails they may receive on their personal computers that are also copied to the city e-mail system.

 “Once we can confirm that the city is not a party, then it may be possible to delete the duplicate e-mails they might have on their personal machines.”

The documents filed by Fernandez with the county court may be viewed on the right side of the main page online. Click on “Stoltzfus e-mails and related court documents.