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Friday, April 23, 2021

City commissioners' emails now available online without need for request

A couple clicks in your Internet browser is all it takes to see what Gainesville’s city commissioners are up to.

As of May 29, anyone with Internet access can view the city commissioners’ emails on the City of Gainesville website.

This new addition goes a step further than the Freedom of Information Act, which allows anyone to obtain certain government records by request, according to FOIA.gov.  

Kurt Lannon, commission clerk for Gainesville, said this initiative intends to improve their accountability.

“Before, people had to come in to the public records office,” he said. “Now the information is available 24/7.”

The committee brought up this email issue recently, but they’ve been discussing it for about 10 years.

Mark Sexton, Alachua County communications coordinator, said the county’s emails have been available online for about 10 years.

“It’s been a great public service,” Sexton said. “And we pride ourselves on transparency and making services available.”  

Citizens and media regularly use this email service, Sexton said.

If someone wants to know what others are communicating to the commissioners, he said, reading emails are a fascinating way to see what other citizens are talking about.

However, some might not be aware that if they send an email to a city commissioner, it can be seen by anyone.

The only emails that won’t be available are those that contain confidential information, Lannon said, but there are few of those emails. 

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“Many citizens like to look at this type of information,” Lannon said. “This led the city to doing the same thing.”

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