Bradenton Beach city clerk Jamie Anderson, left, and treasurer Sheila Dalton shortly after accepting their new administrative positions. Islander File Photo
Two new members of the Bradenton Beach city staff are up for evaluation. The commission voted June 5 to evaluate Shelia Dalton, city treasurer, and Jamie Anderson, city clerk. A positive evaluation could result in full-time employee status, including benefits and tenure.
However, some decisions made by city clerk Jamie Anderson have come under fire, including alleged unauthorized software purchases and possible public records violations.
As clerk, Anderson is responsible for public records, according to the city charter.
The city commission authorized hiring both Anderson and Dalton and they started work Jan. 16.
Commissioners unanimously approved an evaluation form that they will complete and submit anonymously to city attorney Ricinda Perry.
The evaluations will examine quality and quantity of work, judgment, knowledge and skill, leadership qualities and overall effectiveness.
The findings and Mayor Bill Shearon’s formal recommendation will be presented at the June 19 commission meeting.
Email woes create criticism
Anderson’s decision to purchase Microsoft Office 365 with funds from a $25,000 allowance the commission approved in February for computer upgrades has been criticized.
Anderson was accused of purchasing the new Microsoft software without approval from the commission, although Shearon approved the expenditure.
On June 2, Shearon called an emergency meeting regarding the city email accounts, which were shut down for two weeks.
Commissioners voted 4-1 — with Shearon opposed — for the purchase of $4,000 worth of additional software needed to make staff’s new computers and email system operational.
During the meeting, Anderson said the software purchase was necessary because only two city computers had Microsoft Office licenses that had not expired.
The Microsoft 365 installation would have extended that deadline for 10 months, but commissioners opted to keep the city’s current email system and purchase 10 new Microsoft Office licenses that will be active for three years.
The Microsoft Office licenses that existed for the present system were not part of the Microsoft 365 package, and Anderson apologized.
The commission approved a total expenditure of $6,000 in unbudgeted funds to update the existing system’s licenses, including attorney’s fees and additional monitors.
The city won’t likely be able to return the $4,500 Microsoft 365 system because it was activated two months prior to the installation of the new computers.
The Microsoft 365 system has a cloud email feature that would allow commissioners to access their city accounts from mobile devices and facilitate access for the clerk.
Longtime email administrator Ric Gatehouse, a former commissioner, opposed the use of Microsoft 365, saying it was an underhanded way to reduce the city’s contractual responsibilities with him.
Gatehouse issued a statement at the June 2 meeting accusing Shearon and Anderson of conducting a “witch hunt against him.”
Commissioner Jan Vosburgh called the purchase of the 365 program a question of bad judgment on the part of Anderson, saying, “I think a lot of bad decisions were made.”
Attorney alleges public records violations
ELRA attorney Robert Lincoln, who is representing Ed Chiles, owner and operator of the BeacHhouse Restaurant in a lawsuit against the mayor, wrote an email June 4 to city attorney Ricinda Perry expressing concern over the performances of Anderson and deputy city clerk Tammy Johnson.
Lincoln accused Johnson of deleting emails, which are considered public record, and he accused Anderson of denying the files were deleted.
Lincoln also alleged that Anderson delayed or refused to respond to public records requests he made April 30.
“Ms. Anderson has improperly and illegally withheld or delayed the release of other public records by making unwarranted claims of attorney-client privilege or the criminal investigation exception,” Lincoln wrote.
“Anderson made such claims without checking on their validity, again leaving the city vulnerable to a lawsuit.”
In his 25-page email, Lincoln also blamed Anderson for making the city computer system and email accounts unavailable.
“Ms. Anderson authorized and undertook an unplanned, ill-advised and poorly managed upgrade that has left the city unable to respond to communicate using its official email accounts and required city commissioners to conduct official city business using their personal email accounts, in violation of city policy,” he wrote.
Anderson has maintained that any delays in fulfilling public records requests were part of the computer issues the city was facing.
“There are a lot of things (Lincoln) has said that have no validity,” she said. “I just do my job and try not to worry about them.”