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Date of Issue: May 13, 2009

Anna Maria adopts new e-mail system

What took place in Venice recently because some staff and elected officials in that city misused e-mail and failed to keep records won’t happen in Anna Maria.

Following settlement of a civil suit against the Venice City Council in March over improper use of e-mails that allegedly violated Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law — and cost the city $1 million in legal fees — Anna Maria now has its own e-mail server and individual e-mail for staff, elected officials and committee members.

The system automatically stores all incoming and outgoing e-mails.

Acting at the request of city treasurer Diane Percycoe, the city commission moved swiftly to approve funds for the system and get it operational. Percycoe had suggested the city might want to act quickly because of the potential liability found in the Venice case.

The new Anna Maria e-mail addresses went into effect last week.

In the Venice lawsuit, the city and nine officials were sued by Anthony Lorenzo for violating Florida's open records laws, primarily for communicating via private e-mail and then not saving the records. The city admitted the violations in a settlement that may require the city pay some $1 million in legal fees. Individual officials are negotiating to have their legal fees paid, but that matter has not yet been resolved.

Under Florida law, e-mails to and from public officials and members of public committees and boards are considered public record.

At the same time, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum established a new Web site — www.myflsunshine.com — to aid local governments, boards, associations and law enforcement agencies with the requirements of the law.

In the late 1990s, The Islander newspaper successfully sued Anna Maria over Sunshine Law violations. A court order settling the case requires city staff, elected officials and committee members to undergo Sunshine Law training following every general election.

The list of Anna Maria e-mail addresses is available at city hall or on the city’s Web site at www.cityofannamaria.com.

For more information, call the city at 941-708-6130, or e-mail city clerk Alice Baird at amclerk@cityofannamaria.com, or Percycoe at amfinance@cityofannamaria.com.

Mayor Fran Barford can be reached at ammayor@cityofannamaria.com.