According to an article published by The Daytona News-Journal, a series of emails created and received by a sitting city councilman have come to light, that paint a troubling image of Tom Abraham. According to the article, Abraham has been investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) after the City Manager and the IT staff of Orange City, Florida discovered that Abraham had been sending emails that contained racially incentive remarks as well as photos of underage girls with comments of a sexually suggestive nature.
The article also alleges that Abraham is upset that the emails, sent and received on his city issued iPad were made public. According to the City Manager, those emails, which would normally fall outside of Florida’s Public Records Act, became public record once they were made part of an official investigation.
Under Florida law, emails of a personal nature are not public records even when they are sent and received using a publicly owned computer or network. See State v. City of Clearwater. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that content, not location, determines whether or not a record is a public record.
The Florida Supreme Court, however, has also defined a public record as “all materials made or received by an agency in connection with official business which are used to perpetuate, communicate or formalize knowledge.” See Shevin v. Byron, Harless, Schaffer, Reid and Associates, Inc. That would, indeed, appear to include Abraham’s emails that became part of an official investigation.
Once again, the importance of Florida’s Public Records Act has become apparent. The idea that a sitting city councilman would be sending and receiving emails and photos of young girls (ages 10 and 14) in the context of sexually suggestive comments on a publicly financed iPad is “disturbing.”
I am perpetually amazed at some of the incredibly stupid things public officials write in their emails. They seem surprised when someone finds those emails and publishes them.