INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - The city's lawyer has given a memo, brief but detailed, spelling out the essence of the public records law to Indian Rocks Beach's city manager, mayor and commission.
Andy Salzman's memo was triggered by the persistence of Commissioner Ed Piniero who has been adamant in obtaining the mailing list of one of his colleagues on the commission.
That colleague is Jose Coppen, elected in March along with Piniero. The two have a long standing feud going, dating from their time together on the Planning and Zoning Board.
During his campaign for the commission Coppen developed a list of e-mail addressees to whom he sent key information about his campaign, ideas for the city's future and policies.
In the voting in March Coppen, a newcomer to politics, bested Piniero who is a former mayor and commission member and has been active in IRB affairs for years.
Because Piniero ran third in the voting for the three seats that were available, he has only a one-year term, filling out an incomplete term of Bill Ockunzzi who moved to the mayor's post (and was re-elected in March) when Bob DiNicola retired.
Piniero was among those waging a fight to insist that Coppen had to make his informational e-mails to his list of private addressees as part of the public record because they concerned city business.
Though the idea that a private e-mail is part of the public record is absurd, Coppen agreed to do so and his weekly reports of what happens at commission meetings are routinely copied to Deanne O'Reilly, the city clerk.
But that was not enough, notably for Piniero. He wanted the list of addressees, though they were compiled by Coppen and it could be argued constitute a form of property as well as privacy considerations; that is, why should Coppen make public the e-mail addresses of many people?
At one point Piniero raised the question with Salzman that if the custodian of records (O'Reilly) knows of something that might be public record, should she request it?
Salzman's answer to that was no.
His memo dated June 13 goes into detail on the same question and basically comes up with the same answer - no.
If nothing else, the latest incident in Piniero's campaign against Coppen demonstrates that he his persistent and is willing to use the city's lawyer to the fullest extent possible.
Already there is an indication that Piniero has managed to get Salzman to do his bidding in a letter to the Attorney General of Florida, seeking the answer to a question that Piniero apparently has a personal and private interest in.
That letter to the AG was rebuffed with the advice that the question raised was not within the AG's purview.
While Piniero wages his campaign, the commission is riven with the resonations of the acrimony and instead of concentrating on city business there is a constant maneuvering and intriguing that would do the Borgias proud.
Piniero can go on at length with what is on his mind and once he has the floor, Ockunzzi, who presides at the commission meetings is hard pressed to wrest it back and get his commission back on track with essential business.
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