There are all kinds of things you wouldn’t want to be made in to a public record.
Two examples: your email address, and video of you when you don’t know you’re being recorded.
If you tuned in early to the webcam feed of the Gateway Services Community Development District’s last meeting on September 3, 2015, you were treated to a few minutes of live action before the meeting began – a period which the Supervisors had no idea they were being broadcast.
Had you continued watching the entire meeting, like I did, you saw the Supervisors grapple with the idea of obtaining resident’s email addresses without having to make the list available to the public.
But let’s have some fun first.
So just what do the Supervisors do before the meetings anyway?
Why … they read the Gateway Sun, of course.
Yes, it appears that before the last meeting the Supervisors passed around a phone that had our article about how the Board makes $32,000 per meeting in questionable decisions. Upon seeing the article, Chairman William Guy filled the room with hearty laughter then promptly showed the phone to Supervisor Rod Senior.
Senior responded, “Yeah I’ve seen that. That’s a bit of a downer isn’t it?”
“I don’t think so,” replied Guy, who then actually took the time to read the article. To be fair, once he read it the Chairman apparently didn’t think it was so funny any more. Guy then handed the phone to Vice Chairman Margaret Fineberg, who showed it to Supervisor Pamela Gill.
We’re not sure how to describe Gill’s reaction, except to say that she literally cackled.
Gill then said: “Oh yeah. Whatever.”
“Yeah, exactly,” laughed Fineberg.
It’s not clear to us what’s so funny about an article detailing how the Supervisors voted to have the residents pay $105,000 more than they had to for the lawn maintenance contract, among other foolish and costly decisions. But some of the Supervisors got a kick out of it nevertheless.
At any rate, as Guy was getting set to call the meeting to order he asked Operations Manager Scott Connell, “Scott are you ready?”
Connell went to activate the webcam and discovered it was already broadcasting.
“Oh it’s already on,” said Connell.
“It is?” asked a surprised and concerned Fineberg.
Connell replied, “It’s been on for six minutes.”
There was some nervous laughter, because that six minutes became a public record. Understandably, that’s something the Supervisors would rather wasn’t a public record.
Speaking of which …..
During the meeting the topic turned to the collection of residents’ email addresses by the GSCDD so they can send out both general news and time-sensitive information.
The main problem is that once you give your email address to the district it becomes a public record. Any person or business can ask for a list of all email addresses the GSCDD has on file, and the district must turn it over.
Apparently that’s exactly what happened in the past, so all five Supervisors seemed deeply concerned with that problem happening again.
Previously the GSCDD collected 600 email addresses, and multiple entities made public records requests specifically to get their hands on the email list – which they used to send messages to the residents who were on the list.
As you can imagine, those people weren’t too impressed.
The Supervisors discussed ways around the disclosure laws, but Gateway’s lawyer Anthony Pires Jr. was adamant that any emails collected by the GSCDD would be a public record.
We have an idea.
Our solution is for the GSCDD to work with a private company that can be trusted with people’s email addresses, and can be trusted not to spam the residents.
Like us, for example.
We operate two email lists. One for people who hunger for Gateway news, and one for people who hunger for restaurant deliveries. Both lists are opt-in, and we pay iContact.com for professional list management and hosting – therefore all legalities and required disclosures are included with each email we send.
And, actually … we have a third email list that is Gateway-centric. One provided to us by the GSCDD itself.
Did you sign the petition to save the Royal Palm trees? Did you include your email address? If you did, we have it. We asked for a copy of the petition to see if a particular Supervisor signed it. When the GSCDD turned over the petition (which they were required to do) we immediately noticed that the document, to our surprise, contained email addresses.
So that proves the Supervisors’ concerns are warranted. Email addresses obtained by the district can be passed on to third parties.
Do we have experience operating email lists as a professional company? Yes.
So has anyone in Gateway (or anywhere) ever received a single piece of spam from us? No. Of course not.
But that raises a point. What if a private company hosted the list on the GSCDD’s behalf? A private organization would not have to turn over its email list.
Someone could spend all day demanding the Gateway Sun’s or Florida Food Runner’s email list from us. We have no obligation to turn it over whatsoever. Therefore, we could also host a list specifically for GSCDD matters, and nobody could compel us to turn the list over to them.
When the GSCDD has news, they pass it on to us and we pass it on to everyone the list.
Now, if you asked the Supervisors, they’ll tell you that littoral plants are more popular with them than we are. They’d never work with us. But they can work with a different third party organization and achieve the same result: an email list that doesn’t have to be disclosed to the public.
So if the district ever wants to collect your email addresses, and they don’t work with a third party to protect your privacy, then the Sun will join that list on your behalf – and we’ll create a list of our own as a public service. It will be free to join, you won’t have to worry about spammers, and we’ll pay to have the list professionally managed.
Best of all, we won’t have to turn it over to anyone that asks.