Sarasota city manager’s lawyer says public records suit has no basis
By: Nicole Rodriguez – Staff Writer
SARASOTA — Lawyers representing Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin in a public records lawsuit claim the plaintiff in the case has no substantive legal argument since every public record from the top administrator’s private email account dating back to 2012 has been recovered and made public.
Michael Barfield, a paralegal consultant and president of the Florida American Civil Liberties Union, brought the suit this month alleging that Barwin’s failure to produce city-related discussions from his private Gmail account as part of numerous public records requests broke state open records law. He contends it eroded public trust in local government, following revelations last month of Barwin’s extensive use of his personal email account to conduct city business — which Barwin has vehemently denied.
In the Sept. 6 filing, Barfield asked 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. Barfield also asked 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.
In a response Friday to the allegations filed by Barwin’s Palm Beach-based attorney Lloyd Schwed, which was required by Circuit Court Judge Andrea McHugh, Schwed argues Barfield is not entitled to a writ of mandamus, or an order from a court to a government official calling for the official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion.
“As of today’s date, defendants have produced all responsive documents to plaintiff,” Schwed wrote in his response.