After a wave of scrutiny surrounding City Hall, an ongoing investigation into the city’s email system and former city manager is wrapping up.
The Sylint Group Inc. has been investigating whether former Sarasota City Manager Bob Bartollota had deleted emails from the city’s system, after an anonymous claim was made last year accusing the former city manager of deleting city emails.
Sylint president John Jorgensen had charged in the past that Bartolotta “scrubbed” thousands of emails from the city system, of which about 100 cannot be recovered, and on Monday, Jorgensen re-emphasized those findings.
In a presentation before city commissioners on Monday afternoon, Jorgensen said that in addition to emails that appear to have been deleted by Bartolotta, the city manager’s office had conducted dozens of open-ended searches of emails.
Someone in the city’s network accessed sensitive emails in the police department’s separate email system. An account was created to access those emails, thus giving a city employee unrestricted access, the report concluded.
The cyber consultant also found that both Bartolotta and Deputy City Manger Marlon Brown’s computer had electronic folders on their computers that contained emails of other city employees.
That action, although not illegal, raised a red flag for the consultants.
“It would be one thing to have your own emails on a computer,” Jorgensen said after the Monday afternoon meeting.
He told commissioners that his cyber security firm would make a final, conclusive report to city commissioners by the end of the month. He didn’t expect much new information in that report that differed from his presentation Monday.
Computer analysts who have conducted forensic studies of the computers of Bartolotta and Brown, and one other city employee, have discovered, Jorgensen said, that it is impossible to completely tell which emails were deleted, and whether sensitive personnel information or health files that may have been accessed was ever released from the computer system.
“It is very difficult to find out what happened,” Jorgensen said after the meeting.
The Sylint investigation has focused on the city manager’s office and whether Bartolotta and Brown had deleted or removed emails from the city’s computer archive system. A separate investigation by the FDLE is underway, and wrapping up, Jorgensen said.
“They are taking no criminal action,” Jorgensen said.
In other business, commissioners on Monday:
• Voted unanimously to approve Floridays Development Co.’s concept for a boutique arts hotel planned for a vacant parcel of city-owned land. The $40-million Floridays hotel project is slated for a winter 2014 opening, with an expected construction state date of March 2014.
• Unanimously approved a domestic partnership registry. In July, the commission voted unanimously to draft an ordinance similar to at least a dozen ordinances in Florida cities and counties that afford greater rights to unmarried couples.
The city’s domestic-partner registry allows unmarried couples who live together certain rights, including the ability to make health-care decisions for the partner, funeral decisions, hospital visitations and jail visits. It would not take the gender of couples into consideration.
• Voted to have city staff study possible funding for a significantly improved Lido Beach Pool area, including a Tiki Bar, outdoor dining area and possible vendor space. The project would cost an estimated $2.9 million.
• Approved a request to allow street artwork as part of the Sarasota Chalk Festival to remain for
30 days on a section of Pineapple Avenue after the event ends.
For more coverage on Monday’s meeting, see Thursday’s Oct. 4 Sarasota Observer.