Herald-Tribune by Chris Anderson and Nicole Rodriguez
August 16, 2018
City manager Tom Barwin previously denied using private email account days before hundreds of emails surfaced
SARASOTA — In a newly surfaced correspondence with a top official, City Manager Tom Barwin claims to have never used his personal email account to conduct city business, despite hundreds of emails contradicting his statement.
Barwin — who has been using his personal Gmail account for several years to discuss city matters — wrote in a July 24 email to City Attorney Robert Fournier denying he conducts city business on the personal account, writing, “I am not aware of any messages related to city business on any subject on my personal phone or computer. I will triple check but I just don’t do that.″
The two were discussing a June records request by former Sarasota City Commission candidate Martin Hyde — an outspoken critic of Barwin — who asked for emails pertaining to city business on Barwin’s personal account, Fournier told the Herald-Tribune.
The request, fulfilled earlier this week, revealed at least 500 messages to and from Barwin’s personal Gmail account regarding city matters. The messages included electronic communications from his deputy, the mayor, city spokeswoman, private citizens and media outlets — with responses from Barwin to numerous messages.
In addition to the correspondence with Fournier, Barwin also made a similar denial this week to the Herald-Tribune by saying: “I haven’t knowingly used my Gmail account for city business.”
Fournier on Thursday stopped short of saying he felt deceived by Barwin’s declaration that he never used personal devices for city business. He was, however, unable to explain why Barwin may have skirted state Sunshine Laws designed to ensure citizens have access to the public records of government officials, by using his personal account without immediately transferring his Gmails to the city’s server.
“I’m at a loss to explain the discrepancy,” Fournier said.
Barwin said he uses his Gmail account while traveling, as he prefers to work from his personal laptop. In addition, Barwin said many of the emails he receives are unsolicited because — at least until recently — people have been able to obtain his Gmail address from his Facebook page. Barwin also questioned what would constitute conducting city business, such as receiving fliers for neighborhood gatherings.