E-mails stacked up after election

Tampa's new council members didn't get group messages.

By JANET ZINK, Times Staff Writer
Published October 12, 2007

TAMPA - On a typical day, City Council members receive fewer than 10 e-mails from concerned citizens.

On Thursday, the four newest council members got 168.

It seems that after the March elections, the city's information technology department failed to properly update the e-mail address residents can use to send messages to all City Council members at once. So since they took office April 1, new members haven't received e-mails sent to the council as a whole.

"They ended up in a holding bin, and we didn't realize that was going on," said James Buckner, the city's director of technology and innovation. "It was just a technical error."

Members did get e-mailssent to them individually.

Christina Voehl, aide to council member Mary Mulhern, discovered the problem Oct. 3 when she saw a hard copy of an e-mail that had supposedly been sent to all City Council members.

Mulhern never received it.

Voehl questioned the city's technical support staff, and they fixed the problem immediately. But old e-mails weren't forwarded until Thursday.

Thomas Nguyen, aide to first-time council member Joseph Caetano, began sorting through the old e-mails Thursday afternoon, starting with those sent shortly after the new council was sworn in.

Most of the e-mails he had read late Thursday were congratulations to Caetano on his election to the North Tampa seat, Nguyen said.

Council member Charlie Miranda, who was re-elected to his West Tampa seat in the spring after a four-year absence from the council, said he has heard from people who were angry with him for not answering e-mails.

"There's nothing I can do about that," he said.

New member Thomas Scott didn't get the messages either.

Mulhern and Voehl are working on getting a note up on the City Council Web site explaining what happened.

"I feel bad because people, probably rightly so, think their council people are ignoring them when we actually do respond to every e-mail," said Mulhern, a first-time office holder.

She offered this message to constituents: "If you didn't get a response and still have a question, let us know."

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or 813 226-3401.