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BB clerk resigns on threat of criminal charges

By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

Temporary clerk Tammy Johnson attends the July 3 city meeting, where commissioners agreed to a contract with former deputy clerk Terri Sanclemente for city clerk services for six months. Islander Photo: Merab-Michal Favorite

Just weeks after Bradenton Beach commissioners fired six-month city clerk Jamie Anderson, pro tem clerk Tammy Johnson has resigned.

She resigned July 3.

The notice was prompted by allegations from city attorney Ricinda Perry that Johnson violated public records laws.

Perry suggested Johnson could resign or, if she chose to stay on the job, an ensuing investigation of Sunshine Law violations could warrant criminal charges, resulting in her termination.

In her letter of resignation, Johnson wrote she was leaving to “pursue other opportunities.”

Her last day in the office will be July 11. She asked Mayor Bill Shearon to allow her to take accrued personal leave and vacation from July 14-Aug. 22, and he agreed.

Perry alleged that Johnson could have faced first-degree misdemeanor charges for deleting public records and job termination if found guilty, pursuant to city policies.

Johnson asked for guidance in a June 24 letter to Shearon.

In that letter, Johnson stated that Perry told her she will be moving forward on the public records complaints made by “multiple sources on multiple occasions.”

In April, Robert Lincoln, on behalf of himself and as the attorney representing ELRA Inc., Ed Chiles’ BeacHhouse restaurant corporate entity, asked for an investigation as to whether his emails to commissioners were being improperly deleted by the clerk’s office.

Ric Gatehouse, the city’s IT contractor and a former city commissioner, looked into the issue and determined the emails were being deleted from Johnson’s computer.

Johnson said she deleted some emails from Lincoln because she believed they were duplicates.

At the time in question, all emails addressed to commissioners first went to the clerk’s mailbox and were redirected by the clerk to the commissioners.

Johnson told The Islander she was trying to be efficient by deleting duplicates, while ensuring she forwarded a copy to the commissioner-mayor distribution list.

“It was very time consuming,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t tell which email went to who unless I printed it out.”

In May, Perry advised Johnson to forward the city commissioners and mayor their respective emails regardless of them appearing to be duplicates.

“The fact is, if it’s addressed differently, it makes a different public record,” Perry said. “Further, no email should be deleted as it is a public record and should be preserved as such.”

Johnson said she believed the issue was resolved in May after new protocols were enacted to prevent future email issues.

Gatehouse told The Islander that longtime clerk Nora Idso had requested all emails be sent to the clerk’s office, where she distributed them to officials in compliance with Florida Government-in-the-Sunshine-Laws.

But that was some five years ago.

Since then, the city’s email designee changed and emailing became a more prominent means of communication for citizens wishing to contact their elected officials.

“It wasn’t practical any more,” Gatehouse said. “The emails were clogging up the system, so we had to come up with a better way.”

Gatehouse arranged for each commissioner and the mayor to receive, manage, archive and respond to emails without involving the clerk.

Everything seemed to be running smoothly for Johnson, who was made temporary clerk June 19, until the private meeting with Perry, who said it may be in Johnson’s best interest to avoid charges and resign from her position.

If she chose not to resign, Johnson was told she would be called in for a conference to review the accusations and make determinations as to what happens next. Those determinations would then go to Shearon for review.

Perry told Johnson that additional accusations are forthcoming.

At the meeting where the commission dismissed Anderson, Perry said there were concerns indicated on the anonymous evaluations that Anderson mismanaged Johnson, her only employee.

One commissioner wrote that Johnson and Anderson were not “team players,” and not getting along with other departments within the city.

Johnson also was faulted in Anderson’s evaluations for being rude to the public, city staff and commissioners.

Another commissioner wrote that Johnson “has a bad attitude” and “needs to be disciplined.”

Perry also told Johnson that deleting the records while acting under the direction of her previous supervisor “may not be a viable defense.”

 

Who will be city clerk?

Johnson was appointed pro tem city clerk June 19, but only until the city could advertise and hire a new clerk.

Since advertising the opening on the city’s website, only two applications have been received.

At their July 3 city meeting, commissioners voted to bring former deputy clerk Terri Sanclemente on board to perform city clerk services for a term of six months, with the understanding that she could become a full-time employee.

Johnson will train Sanclemente during her last week, July 7-11.

Commissioners are still planning to hire a full-time clerk to replace Anderson.

Sanclemente will be paid $17 per hour on contract, and will not receive employee benefits.

The new clerk will be selected though an evaluation process, where each commissioner anonymously chooses three applicants, then their choices will be presented at a public meeting, where a decision on which applicant will be hired will be based on a ranking matrix.

The clerk vacancy again will be advertised on the city website at www.cityofbradentonbeach.com.

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