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    Times lawsuit seeks Clearwater e-mails

    The newspaper says the city violated state law by withholding some messages.

    By Times staff writer

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 5, 2000

    CLEARWATER -- The St. Petersburg Times has sued the city of Clearwater, seeking access to personal e-mails written and received by city employees.

    Earlier this year, the Times requested, under Florida's public records law, the e-mails of Assistant City Manager Garry Brumback and Planning and Development Administrator John Asmar; however, only e-mails deemed "official records" were released. E-mails considered personal by Asmar and Brumback were withheld, according to a city memo.

    Friday, the Times filed motions in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court seeking an order requiring the city to produce the personal e-mails of Asmar and Brumback, if still archived.

    The Times also asked the court to instruct the city to stop allowing employees to delete personal e-mails and to make them available for public inspection, when requested.

    The newspaper argues the personal e-mails of Brumback and Asmar should have been released as public records because they were sent and received on city computers and read by city employees.

    Further, the personal e-mails of Brumback and Asmar were used by top city administrators to discipline both men in October, the Times noted in its motion. Asmar resigned and Brumback was reprimanded for trading e-mails regarded as inappropriate and offensive.

    A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Dec. 13.

    "This is a necessary step," said Times Clearwater managing editor Joe Childs. "We don't think the law allows two city administrators to have the opportunity to cull through e-mails and decide what should and should not be the public's business. We think e-mail in city offices, on city computers, is public."

    City Attorney Pam Akin said Monday she had no comment.

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