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Former officials' request for Tarpon Springs e-mails will lead to new city policy

TARPON SPRINGS — A request by a former city commissioner has prompted Tarpon Springs to create a policy for how residents should receive public records.

Former Commissioner Peter Dalacos requested that e-mails sent to current commissioners be forwarded to his personal e-mail account.

"Thank you for allowing me to still be in touch with what is going on so I can continue to be involved and follow up on items that I was working on before and would like to see to their completion," Dalacos wrote in an April 19 e-mail.

Because of term limits, Dalacos had to step down from the commission in March. Jeff Larsen, the city's former planning and zoning board chairman, was elected to fill the seat.

At a commission work session Tuesday evening, Mayor David Archie questioned adding Dalacos to the sitting commissioners' e-mail distribution list. Archie said that no one should be given special treatment and that all residents must follow the same process for access to public records, including e-mail.

"The concern is having anyone put on our distribution list … especially a former commissioner," Archie said. "Mr. Larsen has been duly elected and will do a good job of carrying out whatever is left behind."

Archie said the effort isn't an attempt to keep public records out of the hands of residents, but it's a way to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and the same.

City Attorney Jim Yacavone agreed that a formal policy would be beneficial.

"No one can claim they are being treated differently," Yacavone said. "(It's going) to treat everyone as the policy mandates. It gives the clerk a policy they can point to and show people."

But Larsen cautioned against creating a policy that would result in additional work for the city clerk's office.

Florida law requires that all state, county and municipal records be open for personal inspection and copying by any person. Tarpon Springs adheres to that statute, but there is no written city policy.

Residents may request and receive any city record where there isn't an exemption. But there is no policy for a "standing request" of forwarding all of the commissioners' e-mails, as Dalacos has requested.

During his allowed four-minute public comment period, Dalacos said he just wanted to stay up to date on projects he had worked on as a commissioner and to continue getting updates from entities such as the Florida League of Cities.

In the electronic age of information transfer, Dalacos said he thought it was easier to have the e-mails forwarded to him.

"It's a matter of opening up government to as many people who wish to have that," Dalacos said. "What are we afraid of showing? Once you send an e-mail, it's out there and going to somehow possibly show up. We can do it the easy way."

Archie said it's "not about secrets."

"I don't care who gets my e-mail or whenever they get them," Archie said. "There are some oddballs who are reactionary. We don't want them getting e-mail at the same time. This is not for the commission for secrecy, but transparency that is fair for every individual."

The day after Tuesday's work session, Dalacos made a public records request for all e-mail sent to and from every member of the Board of Commission and the city manager. He also wants e-mails sent to the Board of Commission from the Florida League of Cities and the Suncoast League of Cities.

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at dalee@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4174.

Former officials' request for Tarpon Springs e-mails will lead to new city policy 04/30/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:08pm]
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