INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - The feud between Indian Rocks Beach Commissioners Ed Piniero and Jose Coppen continues with Piniero pushing the latest issue.
It has not borne public fruit yet, but insiders have discerned that Piniero (and maybe some of his friends) are most eager to get the address list Coppen uses to send out his informative e-mails to citizens of the city.
When Coppen was elected in March and continued the e-mail format he had used during his campaign to keep city residents filled in on what was happening the city put on a full court press to force Coppen to include city hall on his distribution list.
The absurd claim was that his private e-mails that contained a recitation of what went on at City Commission meetings was public record. That seems like a reach and a court test might find otherwise, but the always amenable and cooperative Coppen agreed to include city hall as an addressee on the basis that what he was doing was healthy and proper.
Now it appears that Piniero is very eager and breathing hard to get the list of addressees to whom Coppen sends his e-mail reports.
This came to light in an e-mail sent to the city's lawyer, Andy Salzman, by Al Grieshaber, the city manager.
Its text -
"Commissioner Piniero would like to know if the staff (City Clerk) has an affirmative duty to ask for a public record from an elected official when she knows one exists but has not received a copy of it. I advised Commissioner Piniero that we (City Attorney, City Clerk and City Manager) had advised Commissioner Coppen that his blog address list was a public record and absent a request for it, we (staff/City Clerk) were not going to request it from him albeit the City Clerk is the custodian of public records for the municipality. I based my thoughts on the fact that Commissioner Coppen, himself, meets the definition of an "agency" and a request for a public record would go to the agency (Commissioner Coppen) that created it. The City Clerk only becomes the custodian of records when the records are made or received by the agency (IRB) for which she is the custodian.
"Your legal opinion on the issue of requesting records that are known to be in existence is requested."
The e-mail, which seems to be part bureaucratic gobbleydegook, was dated May 2.
Salzman's response was a terse and succinct -
"There is no legal obligation to ask for the record."
Again, there is a serious question whether the address list itself is a public record. It hardly seems possible, and one legal authority said that because it existed before Coppen was elected it does not come under the public record umbrella.
Coppen is the new fellow on the block as far as the commission is concerned, thrown among veterans like Jim Palamara, R.B. Johnson, Bill Ockunzzi and Piniero who, although elected in March as was Coppen, is a former mayor and commissioner.
It is obvious that Piniero is desirous of bending Coppen to his will. The two have a contentious history, going back to their time on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Some observers wonder why Piniero wants to spend so much time tilting at windmills when there is so much important and urgent Indian Rocks Beach business lying on the table.
Coppen is smart - an engineer with a degree from MIT. And that comes in useful, such as last week when the commission had to address the request of a local church to erect a 150-foot tower.
Coppen pointed out the arcane aspect of physics which affects tall and narrow structures through the phenomenon of wind vortexes. In other words, a high wind is not necessary to negatively affect the stability of such a tower.
The request lost.
In the meantime, Coppen's messages to the people have struck a positive chord, and he has received feedback comments like "Keep up the good work"; "We count on you"; "For the first time we have a city commissioner who is keeping us updated on what is going on"; "You are giving us a service we have never had before - what a shame that a group cannot work together without the petty back stabbing"; "We stand behind you all the way."
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