Two city commissioners opted out of publishing their professional emails Thursday.
Commissioners Adrian Hayes-Santos and Gail Johnson said during a Gainesville City Commission meeting they preferred their city emails not be published on the city website. The portal to view Hayes-Santos and Johnson’s emails is currently unavailable, according to the website.
All commissioners’ emails public record and are available upon request, in accordance with the Florida Sunshine Law.
However, the commission unanimously passed a motion Thursday which allowed commissioners to choose if they want their emails published, posted a disclaimer informing citizens emails sent to commissioners may be available online and established a seven-day publishing delay.
Hayes-Santos told The Alligator the emails were previously uploaded to the portal every night, which has caused private information to go public in the past.
At the meeting, he said most cities release commissioner emails exclusively through public records requests and the board should change its policy to do the same. Commissioners can control which emails they want published, which promotes “fake transparency,” he said.
“There could be thousands of emails that are taken out of there that were never published,” Hayes-Santos said.
Johnson suggested the option for commissioners to opt in or opt out of publishing emails online and said she preferred to not have hers published. Johnson wrote in a text message to the Alligator Tuesday that many of her constituents don’t want their emails available online.
“Personally, I have had multiple negative experiences that exposed confidential information of my family, as well as people that have emailed me.” Johnson wrote. “Our current process is risky and a disservice to my constituents.”
No members of the public commented on the motion, but Commissioner David Arreola voiced disagreement toward his two colleagues, citing that city officials are already overwhelmed with public records requests.
“To add more of those [requests] when they can simply log on right now and read the emails I think is, again, creating more problems than it’s worth,” he said.
Mayor Lauren Poe said he has no problems with the current email system and the city commission should “manage our communications the way we see fit.”
“I get that there’s a potential benefit to having a unified email policy amongst all commissioners, but, honestly, it’s our email,” Poe said. “I am perfectly okay with every commissioner deciding what works best for them.”
Adrian Hayes-Santos shakes City Commissioner David Arreola’s hand Tuesday during Hayes-Santos and Lauren Poe’s watch party at the Public and General restaurant. Hayes-Santos beat Robert Mounts to become Gainesville city commissioner for District 4.