Local liberty advocate Jeremy Bosso recently spoke to the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners and later shared his thoughts on his personal website, which can be seen HERE:
Mr. Bosso stated the following at the Escambia County Commission June 3rd public forum:
“…I just want to say that I’m very disturbed about recent news reports about an allegation that a ‘county employee’ tried to find out the identity and the location of a citizen for nothing more than submitting an anonymous public records request. This is disturbing. This is extremely disturbing.”
“People say ‘well, why would you place an anonymous records request?’ Well, you know, a lot of people simply fear possible retaliation by their government and instances like this just solidify that very real fear that some citizens have. This can not stand. It cannot stand. This should concern every citizen of this county. And the irony is that the ‘county employee’ that allegedly tried to unmask a private citizen demands their own anonymity. Outrageous. People have a First Amendment Right to petition their government for a redress of grievances, and public records requests, in my mind, fall under the First Amendment.”
“My hope is that you all take this instance very seriously. I would like to encourage you, every one of you, to seek public accountability on this. The public needs to know that something is being done to deal with this. Citizens cannot be targeted; government cannot be weaponized against private citizens… for a public records request. I don’t expect this to die down. I expect action from the board…I think we should all be upset about this.”
Mr. Bosso joined other passionate citizens in speaking up after an anonymous Escambia County employee made an anonymous public records request in an apparent effort to potentially reveal the identity of the person that made an anonymous email record requests for documents on county staff retirement plans. This attempt to “unmask” the private citizen by a county employee has much of the community in an uproar.
For historical context, Escambia County received an email request in late April from an email address with no name — which was found be truly anonymous. This person made an anonymous request for details on a county retirement plan, board minutes regarding the plan and who in county government might qualify for money under a settlement.
The anonymous email was received from a VFEmail.net account, a company that says it will “keep your email out of the NSA’s hands.”
Escambia County IT Director Bart Siders was then asked by an anonymous county employee to provide the IP address of the citizen who made the public records request, according to a May 19 email from County Administrator Janice Gilley to Attorney General Ashley Moody. Florida’s public records laws DO ALLOW for anonymous public records requests, including verbal and written or email requests.
According to current state law, the actual email or written anonymous public records requests themselves become public records. There appears be some gray area currently, however, when it comes to these verbal requests.
Bosso provided The Pulse with additional comments, stating, “This incident really hit home for me, as someone who has been very active in local and state politics and community issues over the years. I’ve been active in the pro-Life movement, and advocated for a variety of Liberty issues, spoken at many public meetings and to many elected representatives. I’ve even organized and participated in rallies and marches. I founded the Second Amendment advocacy group Escambia Carry, but I am also a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus and the Panhandle Republican Liberty Caucus, groups that work to advance the principles of personal liberty, individual rights, limited government, etc. I have also served as the Faculty Advisor for the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at UWF. So, you might say Liberty is a big issue for me. Citizens should not be targeted by their government for exercising their rights, whether you agree with their particular beliefs or not.”