The open-government lawsuit involving Venice City Council members' e-mails on personal computers is drawing national interest.
Judges have ruled that private documents on public computers can remain private.
But a circuit judge's ruling in Sarasota County this week is the first time public officials have been ordered to turn over private computers to comply with public records requests, said Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition at the Missouri School of Journalism.
"It's extraordinary," said Davis. "It's really a big case; the national freedom-of-information movement will be watching."
Circuit Judge Robert Bennett issued a decision Friday granting an emergency request for access to City Council members' government-related files on their personal computers.
The three-page order said Councilmen John Moore and John Simmonds, and Mayor Ed Martin could not "alter, reconfigure or dispose of" computers that had been used to send or receive city-related messages.
Bennett also ordered the three to quit using their personal computers and turn them over to the city clerk.
Within 30 days, a computer expert selected by Sarasota activist Anthony Lorenzo, who is suing the city and four council members, will be allowed to copy files on the computers to see if they contain public information.
In a suit filed last month, Lorenzo alleged that council members Sue Lang, John Moore and Mayor Ed Martin improperly communicated about public business by both public and private e-mail accounts on home and city-issued computers.
He argued, among other things, that the e-mails violated Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine Law.
The lawsuit followed questions this spring about the City Council's handling of the development of a controversial airport plan, and comments by City Manager Black that council members had to be repeatedly reminded of the Sunshine Law's requirements.
Last month, city officials received numerous requests for e-mail records, from the Herald-Tribune, Lorenzo and others.
Simmonds, who was not part of Lorenzo's initial Sunshine Law complaint, said he could not comply with records requests because he had deleted e-mails from his private e-mail account on his home computer.
Lorenzo added Simmonds to his suit and filed an emergency motion to preserve evidence.
In a hearing Wednesday, Lorenzo's attorney, Andrea Mogensen, questioned five of the seven council members on their use of private e-mail to conduct public business and whether they deleted files.
Moore was out of town on vacation and Martin did not appear, despite being subpoenaed. City Attorney Robert Anderson said Martin did not receive proper notice and unsuccessfully moved to have the subpoena quashed.
Council members Lang, Vicki Noren, Rick Tacy and Ernie Zavodnyik testified that they had turned over any e-mails from their private computers and had not deleted any. They were not required to submit their home computers for an examination.
But because Moore and Martin were not in court to testify, the judge ordered them to surrender their home computers. They would be subject to the exam unless Mogensen is satisfied that they have not destroyed public records.
After Wednesday's hearing, Black asked all council members to surrender their city-issued laptops while the case proceeds.
Last week, the city locked the public server so no files could be deleted and ordered all city board members and council members to preserve their records.
"The order is reasonable, and I assure you it will be complied with," Anderson, the city attorney, said of the judge's decision.
Bennett will resolve any disputes about public vs. private information on the home computers.
"We're very pleased with the decision," said Mogensen. "It was not unexpected."
"What is so extraordinary about this case is the judge is making something personal available to determine what is public," said Adria Harper, director of the First Amendment Foundation.
"It would set important precedent and make public officials understand public records law and its broad reach."
For those who don't know, last night, I made a rare appearance on the local access show Ideas at Work and Beyond to talk about the laundry list of coordinated lies and b.s. from the xenophobes and City Hall officials about the Hispanic Center.
In what you can call a shot across the bow, on the show, I set the facts straight about the history of the center, the obvious relationship between Elise Marciano's group and City Hall, the spewing of defaming misinformation about the center by Marciano's klan and her supporters (cue Lynn and Joel), and the real reason behind the denial of the funding.
If you missed it, you can watch the show TODAY at 12 P.M. on channel 23. The show will also be available online later this afternoon.
Trust me, I'm just getting started and this situation is far from over...
In response to Gov. Rell's vetoing the bill that would have raised the state's minimum wage (which would have helped struggling families that are finding it harder to make ends meet in today's economic climate), at the monthly Democratic Town Committee meeting, State Rep (and Deputy Speaker) Bob Godfrey offered the following remarks.
Here's a copy of Rep. Godfrey's press release:
Let's do some numbers!
Last week, the Republican Governor of Connecticut vetoed a Democratic bill that would have raised the state's minimum wage from $7.65 to $8.00 on January 1,2009, and $8.25 on January 1,2010. That means for a person working a 40 hour week at 52 weeks a year, he or she would see a raise in 2009 from $15,912 to $16,640, or $728. In 2010, the raise would go to $17,160, or another $520.
To get this money, it has to be earned.
Contrast this action with the recent so-called "economic stimulus payment" given away by the Republican President. It wasn't a real tax rebate, because the Bush administration spent this year's tax revenues a long time ago. I got $600. I spent it on $4.29 a gallon regular gasoline, mostly imported from the Middle East, which George W. Bush has taught to hate us.
To get this money, the federal government had to borrow, mostly from China.
So, now the questions:
Which is better: earning $728 in a year for which one has to work, or borrowing $600 from China for which one has to mortgage our future?
Which party is the party of fiscal responsibility? Which party is the party of personal responsibility?
It's become apparent that this site needs to expand. Over the last couple of weeks, I've been bombarded with media requests and people wanting to interview me on Danbury. The biggest complaint I'm getting from people who are doing research on what's happening here is that it's hard to get material on my site.
While I have a great deal of material on this blog, getting to a particular topic can be rather stressful at times. In order to make things easier to reach, I'm going to do something I've been putting off for some time, redesigning the site.
Now for those who remember the hassle I went through the last time I remade this site, you know that I HATE TWEAKING WITH THE CSS CODE! Unfortunately, I've come to a point where I've basically had it with the gross amount of lies being spewed in the area and it will make my life easier if I provided more tools that will make it easier for people researching Danbury to access information.
On that note, I'm working on the site now on a off-line server. Once I get the kinks out of it, I'll update this site and things in Danbury will never be the same again.
FYI: If you're a member of the media and are looking for something on this site, you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or instant message me via Yahoo or AOL (username ctblogger).
"Racially motivated" Danbury Common Council gaining more attention
Time: 11:55 AM
As the events surrounding the Hispanic Center gains attention, the Fairfield Weekly came out with their piece that highlights the attempts of damage control coming from City Hall.
Unfortunately, I've been advised to keep my mouth shut on this one for now but lets just say that it's stunning to sit back and watch as the hole get bigger...
Since the city started tackling illegal immigration, Danbury officials have sometimes been called underhanded and xenophobic—but not by other city officials in their own party.
That was the situation last week when the Common Council voted not to restore funds to the Hispanic Center of Greater Danbury, a move that Councilwoman Jane Diggs says "was all racially motivated" and Councilman Robert Reilly says "made me feel embarrassed for the City of Danbury." Both are, like the council's leadership, Republicans.
On May 22, Cinta-Lowe's successor, Eva Colon, came into an ad hoc committee, chaired by Reilly, that the U.S. Citizens for Immigration Law Enforcement knew about and some of Common Council say they didn't.
"This hate group always seems to have inside information," says Reilly. "It's really a group that, for some reason, has an axe to grind with Latinos." The group has stood frigid with surgical masks on their faces before a Latino crowd, afraid to catch a disease from "the illegals," and ripped up a Mexican flag in front of a rally (despite the fact that most of Danbury's immigrants are from Brazil and Ecuador).
Meanwhile, "quite a few members were unaware," says Democratic councilman Paul Rotello. Of the 12 present, all but one were Republicans and all but one (Reilly) voted two weeks later to turn down funding. (The Danbury Common Council consists of 14 Republicans and seven Democrats.)
The minutes say that Council President Joe Cavo "stated that if there is funding restored, that it is understood that the taxpayers of the city will not stand for legislative advocacy against the city, state or country enforcing its laws." The Danbury News-Times said these comments match USCFILE's "statement almost verbatim"
Reilly compares the treatment of the Hispanic Center to that of Association of Religious Communities, which also took out an ad in the News-Times criticizing Danbury's immigration policies. He says ARC got about $7,000 from the city afterwards. "They just pelted Eva Colon with questions, and I felt embarrassed," says Reilly. (Colon isn't making any statements as of now.) "I don't think anyone on the council is racist but they don't do enough to change the appearance that they are."
City Clerk Jean Natale, a Republican, counters that she posted notices for the ad hoc meeting in City Hall and gave announcement via the city's website as usual. She faxed us a meeting noticed stamped May 19 at 9:35 a.m. and an email to an IT assistant to have the notice posted online, May 20 2:12 p.m., as proof.
Grr...OH, I wish I could say something about this line of nonsense but for now, lets continue.
Cue up Cavo's attempt at damage control:
Cavo says that "with the economy as it is, I couldn't justify giving money to any group that didn't truly need it." He says a look at the Hispanic Center's books showed that it was financially healthy, and that its political advocacy had a small impact. He says he didn't steal USCFILE's wording—it's vice versa. "I first used those words in reference to plans for the Hispanic Center about a year ago." He doesn't think that they are being fed "inside information," only that they take an active interest.
Lets just say that Cavo added about 5 feet to the hole with that small cover-up statement.
Mary Teicholz, a fellow Republican councilmember, also denies that race played a role. "You'd have to ask [Reilly and Diggs] why they said that; I have no idea." As for an image problem for the council, she says, "I don't think most of the city knows what the Common Council is."
So, because, in her opinion, most of the city doesn't know what the Common Council is, people in Danbury won't label the Republicans as racists, bigots, anti-immigrants, or a political party with close connections to a local hate-group. In other words, as long as no one is paying attention, we won't be perceived as a racist, bigoted, anti-immigrant political party with close ties to a local hate-group whose members and supporters have:
• advocated firebombing the Hispanic Center,
• "doing something" about the past executive director,
• allegedly thrown rocks and bottles at the Center,
• desecrated another country's flag on Main Street,
• allegedly assaulted two immigrants at Pippa's after demanding that they only speak English (which resulted them being thrown out and banned from the bar),
• routinely harassed Latino employees at TK's (going as far as to videotape them while they work and in one case, calling one waitress a "spic" and demanding a white waitress that speaks English),
• physically assaulted an immigrant rights supporter by grabbing her arm and screaming at her in front of several witnesses during a immigration forum held at the Danbury Public Library in 2006,
• called upon residents to pick up a gun and KILL the day laborers at Kennedy Park.
I could go on but you get the idea. In Mary's world, the council's racist image problem isn't a problem simply because "I don't think most of the city knows what the Common Council is." In other words, ignore the portion of the city that thinks the common council HAS a racist image problem because they're not in the majority.
Man, that about sums up the entire mindset of the Boughton administration in a nutshell. All hail the "so-called" majority and the hell with the minority...unreal.
...maybe Mary should just stop giving comments to the press all together.
In advance of my comment on Mayor Boughton's handling of the bomb threat/bank robbery, I want to share with you some of the excellent programming on city government channel 24.
Who's that in the video you ask? Well, it's no other than the mayor's chief of staff (and Republican senate candidate for the 24th district) Mike McLaughlin.
Why is the mayor's chief of staff on the government channel as opposed to timely information regarding the bomb threat/bank robbery that the public deserved during the time of the incident when EVERY SCHOOL IN THE CITY WAS EVACUATED?
Why is the the city government's camera (paid for by our tax dollars) being used to film the mayor's chief of staff walk around the 9/11 memorial as opposed to using the camera to broadcast the press conference the mayor held on the bomb threat/bank robbery (thus providing much needed information to the public on the city's television channel)?
Is this what the citizens of Danbury deserve...a politically motivated government television channel?
Like I said, I'll reserve my full commentary for a later time...
04.25.22 (RADIO): WSHU Latino group call on Connecticut lawmakers to open a Danbury charter school
06.03.22 (OP-ED): KUSHNER: "Career Academy ‘a great deal for Danbury"
On September 26, 2007, ten plaintiffs filed suit in response to an arrest of aday laborers at a public park in Danbury, Connecticut. Plaintiffs amended their complaint on November 26, 2007.
The amended complaint states that plaintiffs sought to remedy the continued discriminatory and unauthorized enforcement of federal immigration laws against the Latino residents of the City of Danbury by Danbury's mayor and its police department.
Plaintiffs allege that the arrests violated their Fourth Amendment rights and the Connecticut Constitution because defendants conducted the arrests without valid warrants, in the absence of exigent circumstances, and without probable cause to believe that plaintiffs were engaged in unlawful activity. In addition, plaintiffs allege that defendants improperly stopped, detained, investigated, searched and arrested plaintiffs. Plaintiffs also allege that defendants violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights when they intentionally targeted plaintiffs, and arrested and detained them on the basis of their race, ethnicity and perceived national origin. Plaintiffs raise First Amendment, Due Process and tort claims.
Plaintiffs request declaratory relief, damages and attorneys fees.