At November’s St. Armands Circle Business Improvement District meeting, Chairman Marty Rappaport was upset about a records request involving BID directors’ personal email accounts.
On Monday, the Sarasota City Commission was upset, too — with the BID directors who conducted city business using their personal email accounts, which goes against a city resolution. The resolution, passed in 2011, requires all city business to be conducted on city-issued email accounts.
Last month, Rappaport said the group of BID directors was being targeted and said he would consider resignation if the group continued to be scrutinized — unfairly, in his opinion.
Michael Barfield, a paralegal who works with the group Citizens for Sunshine, sent an email to the BID directors in October requesting a series of emails. The query related to emails linked to the BID’s consideration of limiting the commercial space restaurants can occupy on the Circle and hiring another consultant to determine the proper retail mix there.
To comply with the records request, Rappaport had to turn over his personal computer, and the city had to pay for a forensic examiner to recover any emails that matched Barfield’s query and had been deleted from Rappaport’s personal account. Emails on other BID directors’ personal email accounts had not been deleted and could be forwarded to their city accounts.
City Attorney Robert Fournier said it was unknown at this point whether any deleted emails were unrecoverable; the forensic examiner’s report could cost around $1,500. If there are unrecoverable emails, the city could be open to legal action, Fournier said. A settlement was reached in a similar case involving Downtown Improvement District board members last year, with the city paying $8,300 to cover opposing attorney’s fees after certain emails could not be recovered.
On Monday, the commission voted to require all advisory board members to acknowledge the city resolution regarding city-issued email accounts before those boards could meet again. Commissioner Paul Caragiulo said he sympathized with Rappaport’s plight, but that other advisory board members should avoid his misstep so they don’t find themselves in a similar situation.
“You don’t want them to get into the situation where they have to relinquish stuff that a normal person would not want to relinquish,” Caragiulo said. “You just think the incentivization would be built in here.”
Rappaport declined to comment following Monday’s meeting.
“I respect all the work Marty’s done out there, but we can’t keep doing this,” Mayor Shannon Snyder said. “Everyone knows you can’t do this.”
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