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Date of Issue: April 21, 2010

City ‘overwhelmed’ by public records requests

Records requests last week by attorney Jeremy Anderson, along with previous records requests from a Sarasota legal consultant, are burdening Anna Maria’s four-member administrative staff.

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford said city clerk Alice Baird is “overwhelmed” with all the work involved, and other staff members are handling many of her normal duties.

The mayor said the remaining staff members on occasion also have to help Baird with the public records requests, in addition to their duties.

On April 16, Baird got another records request, this for the e-mails and documents relating to public business held by Larry Albert and Terry Schaefer. Both men served on the short-lived parking safety committee.

Barford said the city is probably going to hire temporary staff to help at the front desk while Baird is busy with the requests. The mayor will present a staffing request at the April 22 city commission meeting.

“These records requests are a lot to manage,” Barford said. “Alice has to do it, you can’t just have anyone do it, they have to know what is required.”

But the city has to operate, Barford said, and work has to get done. One option is to “close city hall for a few days while we get the records together,” she said.

The mayor said she will discuss options with the commissioners and let them know how much staff overtime is costing the city, as well as special meetings.

“This is costing the city a lot of money. Extra meetings are a huge expense because we have to have our consultants there. We need commissioners to know what these requests and special meetings are doing to our budget and staff schedule,” Barford said.

Anderson busy

Anderson, of Lobeck and Hanson, P.A. in Sarasota, represents William and Barbara Nally of Spring Avenue, who have filed a lawsuit over the planning and zoning board’s Feb. 23 approval of a Pine Avenue Restoration LLC site-plan for 216 Pine Ave.

In one public records request, Anderson asked for all documents, e-mails, notes and memos relating to city business from Barford, Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick, planning and zoning board member Sandy Mattick, city attorney Jim Dye, city planner Allan Garrett and city building official Bob Welch from July 1, 2009, to April 12, 2010, “as it pertains to the retail-office-residential district properties owned by Pine Avenue Restoration LLC.”

Anderson also requested calendars for Barford, Dye, Garrett and Welch that reflect dates and times when they met with PAR representatives or associates, or met with WELD Inc., including “Ed Chiles, Michael Coleman, the principals or managers of those entities and their employees/staff, contractors engineers or their attorneys.”

In a separate request Anderson asked for any records pertaining to public business transacted by Michael Coleman of PAR, Gene Aubry and Tom Aposporos, while a member of a city commission, committee, advisory board or panel.

Time line

The first records request in a series of demands was filed March 10, when Barfield, acting on behalf of PAR attorney Valerie Fernandez, requested all e-mails pertaining to public business from Stoltzfus and planning and zoning board member Jim Conoly.

Barfield said he believed Stoltzfus may have acted outside Florida’s Sunshine and public records laws and may have operated a “shadow government.”

Barfield has since requested the e-mails related to public business of former Commissioner Duke Miller, Robin Wall, Nicky Hunt and Cathy Stoltzfus, wife of Commissioner Stoltzfus.

Baird said last week that none of the four have submitted any records to the city.

Only Wall responded to a request from The Islander for information, saying she retained Harrison to act on her behalf.

Efforts to reach Harrison were unsuccessful.

Commissioner Stoltzfus has submitted four sets of e-mails, while Conoly has provided one set, but said he is in the process of preparing more records for submittal.

May 7 hearing

 Fernandez said she did not believe Commissioner Stoltzfus and Conoly provided all e-mails relating to public business. Two weeks ago, she filed for a temporary injunction and writ of mandamus against Stoltzfus and Conoly on behalf of Barfield to obtain their computer hard drives to search for more e-mails.

A hearing on the injunction and writ of mandamus is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Friday, May 7, before Judge Edward Nicholas of the Manatee County Circuit Court.