Lear, North Port goal of civil suit, public information in dispute | News

Enika Vania

NORTH PORT — A Sarasota business is suing North Port and its town supervisor for failing to convert in excess of data from a general public data request.

Michael Barfield, a Sarasota paralegal and civil rights advocate operating beneath his DeNovo Authorized Expert services firm, experienced asserted the city effectively stonewalled him in the pursuit of electronic communications of North Port city supervisor Pete Lear, who was before embroiled in an workplace romance.

Lear has considering the fact that returned from paid suspension about the affair.

The exact company filed a very similar fit from the city of Venice in 2018, alleging Sunshine Law violations for not giving texts and messages. Venice settled the go well with two years later.

On Wednesday, North Port officials produced an bill despatched to Barfield, who is top the information quest. The bill aspects expenditures of compiling a response, in accordance to a city spokesperson. It is dated Sept. 24.

Barfield claimed Wednesday he experienced not acquired the bill. The civil match is dependent on a lack of solutions.

“There was a obvious response,” to Barfield’s request, city spokesperson Josh Taylor said Wednesday. “Maybe he really should examine his spam folder,” that means the bill may have been misdirected from a classic inbox folder. “If he wasn’t receiving something, he could contact us.”

Details of the lawful information requests are spelled out in paperwork filed Wednesday with the 12th Judicial Court in Sarasota County. In all those papers, the plaintiff, which is Barfield’s Denovo Regulation Providers LLC, claims North Port failed to deliver general public records sought in link with Lear. Sarasota attorney Robert P. Watrous had submitted the civil fit on Barfield’s behalf.

Barfield mentioned his office environment had sought electronic information for Lear from Feb. 3 through Sept. 23. That would contain emails, text messages, social media accounts “or any other digital platform, application, or application able of sending digital or electronic data,” according to a civil fit submitted Tuesday and totally up-to-date in lengthy detail Wednesday.

That information and facts would contain Lear’s own cell cellular phone, according to Barfield, who asserted that North Port had stonewalled the general public documents ask for since it was submitted in late September.

But North Port on Wednesday made the bill that comprehensive about $2,500 in predicted prices to compile the data, Taylor mentioned. The invoice also lists Nov. 23 as a thanks day to critique, redact delicate info, and to supply some 39,311 e-mail, 838 text messages and 227 other shared documents relating to Lear about that timeframe. The invoice also lists a $1,262 deposit request.

Barfield wished to keep track of Lear’s actions above that time. Lear was positioned on paid depart in July for an admitted office romance with a subordinate.

The invoice, Barfield included, is a side situation, as the the city’s fees for compiling public records “is a No. 1 device applied to discourage obtain to public documents. That is an outrageous charge.”

A report on Lear was geared up by a Fort Myers investigator. The findings in August confirmed that Lear and Scheduling Division manager Nicole Galehouse had admitted their consensual marriage. The 59-web page Sproat Office Investigations report detailed the affair, with contributing dialogue from a collection of staffers.

But Sproat’s report found minor evidence that Lear had violated conditions of his 5-calendar year deal, as ethics or integrity weren’t spelled out evidently, according to 3 of the commissioners voting to reinstate Lear to his $162,000-per-year task.

In trying to get general public documents more than that time period, Denovo “has a obvious legal suitable to examine and copy any part of a history responsive to the information ask for to which a valid (statutory) exemption does not use,” in accordance to language in the civil suit.

This is not Barfield’s 1st operate-in with North Port. The metropolis sued him in 2014 about a general public data ask for concerning names of law enforcement officers included in an alleged sexual assault. He experienced pressed for the names of Melanie Turner and Ricky Urbina, two North Port police officers who, at the time, had been at the center of a legal investigation tied to the alleged sexual battery of a 38-year-outdated female. Urbina afterwards died by suicide, and the city subsequently dropped its lawsuit.

Due to the fact Wednesday’s civil match experienced just been submitted, North Port could not present a in-depth response, as it “came as a shock to the town clerk, as very well,” Taylor explained. Barfield included in Wednesday’s courtroom filing that Lear had browse the September records ask for and failed to respond, nevertheless, he mentioned.

Barfield sued the metropolis of Venice in January 2018 just after the metropolis did not produce texts from some of its code enforcement workforce. The town at some point turned in excess of the information and $45,321 for lawful costs previously this calendar year.

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