News Journal Editor
Daytona Beach, FL
Your 08-14-14 editorial ” Keep Sunshine strong in Port Orange “ noting my distain regarding City policy requiring volunteer board members to use city-issued accounts “when conducting city business “ fails to inquire as to the motivation for that policy, its practical consequences, or indeed even what constitutes city business.
This policy was put in place by an administration that was receiving intense and legitimate criticism for incompetence across multiple departments, in an effort one could argue, to silence its critics.
It exceeds State Public records law by requiring volunteer board members to deliver to the City Clerk on an ongoing basis ANY records that could be alleged are public records. Unlike State law it places the City in potential legal jeopardy of having to compel production of its volunteers every time anyone alleges a public record has not been delivered to the City Clerk…..irrespective of whether that record can be named or proven to even exists.
Indeed your paper reported on 08-12-14 “ Public records fight rages “ that after examining the Audit & Budget binders he had requested from me the former Manager “ expressed his concerns that Noftall is not providing all public documents in his possession” He cannot name which documents have not been produced or if such documents even exist, but this policy which he helped craft and pass compels the City to assist in his production demands none the less.
You note that I will fully comply with the former Manager’s records request and in so doing you should understand I will be providing hundreds of personal e-mails from my personal computer which the former Manager alleges are public records. Many of these e-mails were sent to various media outlets and many more are already on the City’s servers as they were sent or copied to Council and the Manager or City Attorney. While that production does not bother me beyond its inconvenience because my intent all along has been to publicize managements incompetence, that may not be the case with others who may choose to either not volunteer, Or not express their opinions knowing that searches could be demanded of their personal phones and computers should anyone ever allege they may contain a public record that has not been forwarded to the City Clerk.
The practical effect of this policy has turned Sunshine on its head in Port Orange from one where citizens may inquire and demand of government, TO where defeated candidates or disgraced officials may now avail of City policy to inquire and demand of its citizens or at least those citizens who serve on volunteer boards.
The potential chilling effect of that prospect on volunteer participation, and on public discourse should be of concern for all lovers of the First Amendment and most certainly for any paper that proudly places John Milton’s famous quote on its masthead, as does the Daytona Beach News Journal.
News Journal Editor