Herald-Tribune by Nicole Rodriguez
September 6, 2018
SARASOTA — A lawsuit filed Thursday against Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin and the city alleges that the top administrator’s frequent failure to produce city-related discussions from his private Gmail account as part of numerous public records requests broke state open records law and eroded public trust in local government.
The suit, filed by Michael Barfield, a paralegal consultant and president of the Florida American Civil Liberties Union, asks a judge to grant an accelerated hearing in the case, and declare that Barwin and the city violated state record retention rules and the Sunshine Law, which is intended to guarantee that citizens have access to public records and the decision-making of governmental officials. The 21-page suit requests a judge to order Barwin and the city to follow the law, make records on Barwin’s personal electronic devices available for inspection, pay Barfield’s legal fees and award any other relief the court deems appropriate.
“The violations by the city and Barwin of the Public Records Act, and the minimal standards and requirements for the storage and retention of public records under Chapter 257 … are extensive and reveals a systemic pattern of conduct which is not isolated,” the suit states.
On several occasions dating back to 2013, Barfield requested public records from the city and Barwin on both work and personal devices since Barwin was appointed city manager in 2012, according to the lawsuit. Some, but not all, of the records were produced, the suit states.