After receiving dozens of phone calls from school-tax referendum supporters complaining about unfair treatment, the Republican Party of Sarasota County clarified confusion over party e-mail lists and who controls them.
Republican party members took a vote in January on whether to take a position on the March 16 referendum to extend the 1-mill school tax. More than 50% opposed the referendum. Two-thirds was required for the party to take an official position, so no position was taken.
However, many Republican party members have been receiving e-mails almost daily that advocate opposing the referendum — e-mails they thought were coming from the party.
The former communications director of Republican Party of Sarasota County, Peter Rice, is still active in several conservative groups and still has a lengthy e-mail list of Republican party members.
Rice has been sending to the list items such as links to anti-referendum stories and events in which anti-referendum speakers will appear.
Rice never claimed that the e-mail was coming from the Republican Party, but because he had been the party spokesman for so long, many people believed he was still representing the party.
Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota County, said some referendum supporters wanted access to the party’s e-mail list to send their positions on the school tax to the same people Rice had e-mailed.
“Peter’s service to the party has been fantastic,” said Gruters. “But there was enough concern from (Republicans) who favor the referendum that I wanted to send out a clarification.”
Gruters sent a lengthy e-mail to all GOP members explaining that the party has taken no position on the referendum and that Rice is no longer party spokesman.
“I want the community to know that unless the e-mail says that it is from the Republican Party of Sarasota, do not assume that the party or its leadership played a role in its delivery,” wrote Gruters.
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